Boxer is on the 'FAST' track

Anytime. Anyplace.

Is there any better catchphrase for a boxer to have?

But Reno junior welterweight Roman Polak didn't coin the term because he's a boxer. In fact, it wasn't just a phrase to him, it was a way of life.

Polak was a member of the ultra-elite FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team) unit, the so-called "America's Shadow Warriors" of the United States Marine Corps, and will face Carson City resident (and former member of the United States Army) Simon Ruvalcaba (2-4-2) in a four-round welterweight contest tonight at Caesars Tahoe. The bout, presented by Cedric Kushner Promotions, is one of six scheduled for the Circus Maximus Showroom.

So classified were Polak's assignments, there isn't much the 25-year-old can share with the public. He can say he was based out of Norfolk, Va., at some point in his active years in the Corps (1996-2000). He can say he was in the Middle East and Africa during his time in the Marines' version of the Special Forces, and that the outfit is even more specialized and classified than the elite Marine Recon unit.

Polak can also say he specialized in intelligence and was an expert with weapons systems such as the .50-caliber machine gun, the successor to the M-60, a fully automatic grenade launcher, as well as being trained to the nines with handguns and other full and semi-automatic weapons. And then some.

And the rest? Well, you were either there, or you weren't. If you were, you don't talk about it. And you spend the rest of your life seeing things in your head you'd rather not.

When talking about Polak and perception, you could say that first impressions can be deceiving. His height (5-foot-11) and weight (144 pounds for the fight) do not reveal the warrior within. Nor does his 0-1 professional record.

"He fought a guy (Tony Avila in 2001) who nobody wanted to fight, and he did it in the guy's backyard (Bakersfield)," said his father and trainer, Wolf Polak. "The record says he's 0-1 and that his bout was stopped in the second round. It doesn't tell you that he was beating the guy and got cut during a headbutt --which the referee didn't see. It should have been a no-contest, not a loss."

But not all of Polak's life is shrouded in mystery. He had over 20 amateur fights and was a member of the All-Marine Boxing Team, and was coached by Hall-of-Fame amateur coach Roosevelt Sanders. And he once fought 2000 Olympian bronze medalist Jermain Taylor, who is the only boxer to inflict a standing-eight count on Polak (Polak lost by decision).

"I've never been hit so hard as I was with (Taylor)," Polak said. "He hit me with a left hook. He was too strong, too big (at 156). But I was competitive."

If there is a phrase that can come anywhere near describing Polak, it's "competitive and looking for a challenge." It explains why he would want to be and would earn a spot on the FAST unit and one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. It also reveals a bit of why he'd want to fight for a living while remaining a fulltime student at Truckee Meadow Community College, where he is studying criminal justice (which he hopes will lead to a career in federal law enforcement and homeland security).

"I want to see if I'm as good as I think I am," Polak said of his professional boxing aspirations. "I see other guys with titles. I want to see if I can do it."

Polak said he'd still be in the Marines if it weren't for his desire to box (he left inactive reserve on June 27), and he's still in search of a thrill.

"I've wanted to box since I was 11 years old," he said. "This is the first time I've fought around the Reno-Tahoe area in seven or eight years. All my friends and family will be there. They've always heard about me boxing, but they've never seen me. I'm excited about that."

And it will be an experience that he won't have to keep to himself. It might even be one that leaves him with good dreams.

NOTES: There are five other bouts on tonight's card. Heavyweights Charles Shufford, 19-4 (9), Las Vegas, and "Wreckless" Willie Chapman, 16-17-3 (4), Odgen, Utah, meet in the 10-round main event; Stephanie Dobbs, 7-8-2 (5), Moore, Okla., takes on Hollie Dunaway, 2-2 (2), Fort Smith, Ark., in a four-round women's light flyweight bout; Shane Cameron, 3-0 (3), Las Vegas via New Zealand, challenges Vernon Woodward, 3-5 (3), Shawnee, Okla., in a four-round heavyweight bout; Paula Mataele, 4-0 (3), Las Vegas via New Zealand, meets Jeremiah Constant, 0-1, Edmond, Okla., in a four-round heavyweight bout; and Daniel Codling, Las Vegas via New Zealand, 3-0 (2), takes on Arthur Medina, 5-10 (3), Fort Collins, Colo., in a four-round junior middleweight bout.

Doors open at 6 p.m. First bout begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $75, $50, $35 and $25 and are available at the Activities Center in Caesars Tahoe from 8 a.m, at Guest Services at Caesars Tahoe anytime, by calling 775-586-2044 or (800)-648-3353 anytime, and at all TicketMaster locations or through ticketmaster.com.

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