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A look inside Emmett's rich boxing history

Kenny "The Emmett Eliminator" Keene and "Irish" Ed Dalton take us back to Emmett's boxing heyday
Posted at 12:25 PM, Jun 24, 2024

EMMETT, IDAHO — Emmett, a city full of history and agricultural wealth was once also known as a boxing power town. I sat down with Kenny Keene and Ed Dalton who shared their stories from Emmett's boxing heyday.

  • Kenny "The Emmett Eliminator" Keene (51-4) 28 KO/TKO
  • "Irish" Ed Dalton (27-10-3) 6 KO/TKO

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

Today, many refer to Emmett as an old mill town. But there was a time when a few locals put Emmett, Idaho on the map in a different way. I'm your Emmett neighborhood reporter Alexander Huddleston and I sat down with Kenny Keene and Ed Dalton to learn about the rich history of Emmett's boxing culture.

"Whether you win or lose, at least you are the man in the ring," said Dalton.

Keene added, "Would I do it again? Yes, I would. It was like a rock and roll lifestyle."

Driving over and down Freezeout Hill into Emmett, you get a glimpse of what was once known as the “Garden”. Throughout the years it became a major farming and fruit-growing community.

"Basically this was a mill town. We had a bunch of hardworking men. We’re tough. These were tough men working for a living," explained Dalton.

But one kid from the blue-collar town was redirected onto another path.

Keene described his introduction to boxing saying, "My father, he worked at the mill. He said, 'You're not much of a worker kid, you're not going very far in school.' I think my dad just wanted me to be a fighter."

A young Kenny Keene picked up boxing at the amateur level locally.

"Those guys were really great to me and all the boxing kids. They really cared for you and your career," said Keene.

Keene tells me he went 1-9 in his first year, prompting the athletic commission to debate letting him continue fighting. That's when Keene said he woke up.

Keene made his professional debut in 1990 as a 21-year-old at Hawks Memorial Stadium, winning by unanimous decision. "The Emmett Eliminator” went on to win his next 24 fights putting him in contention for the WBF cruiserweight title in 1994 against Bobby Crabtree. Keene won by TKO.

"I was 25 when I got it. I just thought, man, I'm there. I made it," smiled Keene.

Keene successfully defended his belt twice until losing it in a rematch with Crabtree. However, he reclaimed the title later that year.

In the years following Keene accrued the IBA World Cruiser title, defending it twice before hanging up the gloves in 2006 ending his 51-4, 28 knockout career.

Keene explained, "It's just strange. Guys you grew up watching and admiring, then you meet them, and now you're kind of one of them."

However, Keene isn't the only pro boxer who calls Emmett home. So does his older brother Joey Keene and Kenny’s good friend “Irish” Ed Dalton.

One day I was at the gym sparing for fun just to get a workout, and one day Kenny goes ‘Hey, you want to be on my next card?', recalls Dalton who had already built a pretty solid amateur-level career.

That card kicked off a professional career that in 1996, led to Dalton's first of five title fights.

"To go out in the middle of a crowd, the middle of say, thousands of people, televised fights whatever. Everyone you have ever known is watching, it's unique," described Dalton.

Dalton smiled and said, "It was a lot of fun, you're still just like being in a small town, you still have the same friends. It didn't change that much."

Dalton ended his career going 27-10-3 with 6 knockouts, and although boxing has seen a decline in popularity over the years, it's locals like Keene, Dalton, and Caldwell's Alyssa Mendoza, who is heading to the 2024 Olympics, who are making sure Idaho stays in the ring.

"It isn't dead yet, because there are still a few of us around," finished Dalton.

Although their glory days may be behind them, the hometown heroes' stories and legacies are still told around the old mill town.