Willie D. Packs a Wallop

The phone rings. On the other end a man speaks in a foreign accent, like Andy Kaufman's Latka Graves but with a deeper voice: "Hello, Houston Press? My name is Omar [garbled], and I would like to report a protest that is taking place today." Pause. "Yes, my people are outraged and we are organizing a protest today and I thought you should know about it so you could come down and do a story about it." Pause. "We are protesting this so-called professional boxer Willie D. This protest is all about that impostor, Willie D."

The caller, of course, is Willie D., the damned hilarious prankster, platinum-selling rapper, former radio talk-show host, raconteur and, starting this weekend, professional boxer. On December 18 the Geto Boy will take on Mexican-trained fighter Charles Aguilera at The Throw Down 'N H-Town, a fight card featuring world-class pros and female fighters in addition to the music biz celebrity. The event is expected to pull in millions of viewers when it's eventually broadcast on BET and ESPN, but there's nothing like the real thing, baby, where you can smell the blood in the air.

And there will be blood. The Throw Down's other headlining fighter, Houstonian Reggie Johnson, is a two-time world boxing champion who lost his International Boxing Federation light heavyweight belt to Roy Jones in June. Johnson is champing at the bit to win that title back, and the Throw Down, where he'll take on former World Boxing Federation super middleweight champ Earl Butler of Louisiana, is the first step in getting his fans riled up for a rematch.

Boxing purists may think that Willie D.'s bout isn't as legitimate as Johnson's, but D. is no stranger to the sport. It's in his genes: His mother's twin brother, Melvin Dennis, has won more than 100 pro fights, and D. can trace his bloodline back to Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. D. himself boxed until age 17, when he decided to be a rap star, which seemed like a "more reachable" goal at the time. And for a kid who came up "through the nickel," (i.e., in Houston's Fifth Ward), as part of the seminal gangsta rap group the Geto Boys, it was.

It's not that Willie is giving up rap. In fact, he's got a new album in the can, which allowed him to devote all of his energy to training with dennis for the Throw Down. "This is an extension of a professional career," he says. But it's a risky one. His street cred is on the line. "Anything can happen," he says. "Boxing is the arena of the unexpected." He could be disqualified, the other guy could be disqualified, someone could get hurt.

"But," he rhymes, "I can guarantee you....I will not go out like a sucka. I will lay some haymakers like a muthafucka." Muhammad Ali couldn't have said it better himself. And if he does take a blow, he promises that at least he "will look good goin' down... but that will not happen." When asked about his opponent, who has fought mostly in the amateur arena, D. is quick to judge: "He's a damn fool. Why would anyone want to fight someone who is as ambitious and eager and hungry as I am?" Then he chuckles. "But they say there's a sucka born every minute."

Presented by Prize Fighter Boxing, Grand Casino Coushatta, Antonio Leonard Productions and the University of Houston, the Throw Down in HTown is Saturday, December 18, at 7:30 p.m., at Hofheinz Pavilion. Call Ticketmaster at (713)629-3700 for tickets, $20-$100. Tickets for the after-party at The Americas, 2345 Navigation, are $15 at the door. For more information, check out the TDIHT Web site at www.throw downnhtown.com.

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Liz Belile