Bill Bedner first heard about this competition from local USBG president Robby Cook (whose bar happens to be next door to Bedner’s). Right away he was interested. “I've been trying to find something to get me in shape,” says Bedner. “I wasn't that active before. I played a little bit of soccer, did some surfing, but this is my first time getting really serious about boxing.”
The handful of boxing classes he’d taken in the past weren’t enough to prepare him for the rigors of the competition. With three days a week training in the gym, Bedner has noticed some physical changes. “I've lost about 15 pounds,” he says.
Bedner is a native Houstonian with a long bartending history. “I started bartending when I was in college. It was a progression from waiter to bartender and now I'm part owner of a bar called Lilly and Bloom on Main Street. It's all reclaimed wood, exposed brick. The building was built in 1876; it's one of the oldest buildings in Houston.”
At the beginning of Bedner’s hospitality career, working in fine dining, he became fascinated by the wine world. “I became a level two wine sommelier,” he says, but his love of wine led to other things. “Being a sommelier is not just about wine: it's cocktails, it's beer, it's saké, it’s everything, so you have to be really well-rounded.”
As a bartender, one of Bedner’s strengths is matching a guest with a drink they don’t know they want yet. “I try to feel them out, ask questions,” he says. “Not everyone really knows what they want to drink, so you kind of have to probe them and find out.” That same intuition does him in good stead when the occasional fight breaks out in his bar. He's hoping those quick reflexes will translate well into the ring.
Though Bedner was excited about the competition, he was surprised at just how big it is. “I thought it was going to be a little back room boxing competition,” he says. “I didn't think there was going to be the cameras and all that.” For Bedner, the energy is contagious.
In the ring, Bedner answers to “Bayou City Beast.” “You don't make up your own nickname, you have to earn it,” says Bedner. “I got that one a few years ago when we were out alligator hunting. We caught a big gator.” Friends have used that nickname for Bedner ever since. It was the obvious choice when he needed to pick a fight name.
Like many bar owners, Bedner’s schedule is full to the brim. “I'm a pretty simple guy,” he says. “My bar takes up all my time.” Future career plans include opening another bar in the Houston area, but the concept isn’t solid yet. “The bar that we have now kind of designed itself,” he says. “You have to go find your location and then build off that. You can't just define it and then do it.” No matter what comes next, bartending is in Bedner’s blood, and he plans to be behind the bar for the long haul.