RENO -- Clifford "The Black Rhino" Etienne is an angry man and he's looking to take it out on Talmadge Griffis.
The pair will meet tonight in the 10-round main event in the latest edition of the Everlast Heavyweight Heroes series, which will be presented by Cedric Kushner Promotions in conjunction with Downtown Reno. The card will feature three other heavyweight fights and an exhibition bout featuring Elena "Baby Doll" Reid and "Vicious" Vaia Zaganas.
The 32-year-old Etienne, 27-2-2, with 19 knockouts, is coming off an eight-round decision over Onebo Maxime Ghahou and weighed 224 pounds Friday at Silver Legacy, 13 pounds less than when he fought to a 10-round draw with Gilbert Martinez on March 27 at Caesars Tahoe.
"It was a wake-up call,' Etienne first said of his bout with Martinez before clarifying how he really felt. "They called it a draw. That's (B.S.). What can I do? What I can do is take it out of (the judges') hands."
The 6-foot-2 Etienne, of Baton Rouge, La., reached his pinnacle when he hammered out a unanimous 10-round decision over contender Lawrence Clay-Bey in November 2000. He was knocked down seven times on the way to an eight-round knockout to Fres Oquendo in March 2001 and was stopped in one round by Mike Tyson in February 2003.
Etienne, who owns a victory over WBO heavyweight titlist Lamon Brewster, has gone 3-0-1 since his one-punch knockout loss to Tyson and said he has increased his training regimen under former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist James "Buddy" McGirt.
"I've lost weight, I'm doing more of everything," Etienne said, curling down his lower lip into a scowl. "I'm more than irritated. It's not about then. I don't care. This is for here. I'm very focused. What else would you call it when you get up at 4:30 in the morning to run? It's a hundred degrees in the gym in Vero Beach. McGirt drives the (deleted) out of me."
The 29-year-old Griffis, 22-4-3 (14), said he is a new man and has put behind him the personal problems that had dogged him for well over 18 months. Griffis was a win or two away from contender status before losing three fights in a row to Cedric Boswell, Joe Mesi and Taurus Sykes.
After losing to Sykes in March 2002, Griffis got away from boxing and, according to his trainer Dick Wood, hauled Sheetrock for $10 an hour, 14 hours daily, before returning to stop Harold Rodriguez in five rounds last February.
The 6-foot-2 Griffis weighed in at a shredded 208 with clothes and said he would have liked to have had a couple of more tune-up fights before stepping in with Etienne, but that it wouldn't matter in the end.
"It is what it is," said Griffis, who's fighting out of Colorado Springs, but is from Rockford, Ill. "I know what I gotta do (against Etienne). I just have to box - not stay in front of him. Use angles - don't go straight at him. Use side angles."
Griffis, who appeared defined, said he has been considering a move to the cruiserweight division but a win against Etienne would be a big boost to his heavyweight career.
"I need to get back in the flow," Griffis said. "A win puts me back where I want to be. There aren't many opportunities like this."
In other action, southpaw Tony "The Tiger" Thompson, 22-1 (13), of Washington, D.C., will face Agustine Corpus, 10-14-3 (8), of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in an eight-rounder. The 6-foot-4 Thompson scaled in at 260 pounds, while the 5-foot-11 Corpus weighed 231 pounds.
After opening his career with four wins, Thompson lost a four-round decision to Eric Kirkland in July 2000. He is on an 18-bout winning streak, including an eight-round unanimous decision over then-unbeaten Yamplier Azcuy on March 27 at Caesars Tahoe, but has had several prospective opponents drop out on him during an 18-month span.
Thompson said he is still looking for a career-defining fight and that he is growing frustrated while awaiting his shot.
In the other two other heavyweight bouts. Sione Asipeli, 17-12-2 (8), 225, Las Vegas via Tonga, will face Azcuy, 9-1 (6), 232, Las Vegas via Cuba, in a six-rounder and Rafael Butler, 255, Rochester, Minn., will make his professional debut against Royphay Soileau (pronounced "swah-low"), 0-2, 226, Ville Platte, La.
Butler won the 2004 National Golden Gloves super heavyweight title earlier this year.
Reid and Zaganas will be facing each other in an exhibition for the second time in less than three months. Their first exhibition was at Caesars Tahoe on March 27. Both box out of Las Vegas and are former roommates. Reid, 14-4 (4), a natural super flyweight, weighed 119, while natural minimumweight Zaganas, 16-3 (6), tipped the scales at 107.
WHAT: Everlast Heavyweight Heroes.
WHERE: City Center Pavilion.
WHEN: Doors open at 5 p.m. First bout at 6.
TICKETS: $75, $60, $25.
TICKET INFO: Available at Circus Circus, Eldorado Hotel Casino, Silver Legacy & Harrah's Reno, by calling 888-288-1833 or by logging on to [ http://www.downtownreno.com ]http://www.downtownreno.com or tickets.com