By Greg Gulas
Sick all week with a sore throat, everyone would have understood if Austintown Fitch’s Rodney Cole decided to not train as hard for his K.O. Drugs boxing championship bout against Hubbard’s Dale Harrison.
Instead, he kicked his training up a notch and wanted to be in the best condition for his rematch with Harrison.
Cole’s decision paid off as he won by unanimous decision over Harrison, avenging an opening night loss and capturing the underclass welterweight belt to finish 3-1 this year.
The 24th annual tournament came to a close Friday with 24 championship belts and several special honors awarded at the ITAM Banquet Center.
“Being sick was really tough this past week, but I didn’t cut down on my training and in the end, it really paid off,” said Cole. “By increasing my training, it also helped me to maintain my stamina.”
Canfield’s Dante DeLorenzo was the highlight of the upperclass division, capturing the super cruiserweight belt when he scored a first-round TKO win over Eric Ahmer of Struthers.
Of DeLorenzo’s four wins, three came by TKO and two never made it to the second round as he earned the upperclass division’s Most Promising Boxer Award.
Columbiana’s Craig Smith (3-0) stopped East’s Darrien Dozier by second-round TKO to capture the junior middleweight championship, while John Tufino of Mahoning High won by first-round TKO Greg Ellis of Boardman to earn the super middleweight belt.
“I knew exactly what I had to do. He [Ellis] put pressure on me and I just put the pressure back on him,” said Tufino.
After he hit me pretty hard, I went straight to work on his body and just kept applying the pressure,” Smith said.
D’Anthony Brown, a senior from Struthers, will retire with an unblemished 3-0 mark after competing in his first sanctioned boxing tournament.
He earned a split decision win over previously-unbeaten Troy Sigurani of Boardman to capture the light heavyweight belt, noting that he didn’t train much but felt like he was still in pretty good shape.
“I did run a lot so I had plenty of stamina and endurance,” said Brown. “I just get in the ring and try not to get hit.”
Chaney’s Torrence Ahart, who was named the underclass Most Promising Fighter, scored a unanimous decision over Harding’s Ta’Shan Williams for the super lightweight crown.
Also, Kayla Burnside of Struthers and Shianne Gist, who earned Most Promising Female Boxer laurels, won two of the three female championships that were on the line.
Burnside, a sophomore and the daughter of longtime trainer Keith Burnside, became a two-time tourney champion when she scored a unanimous decision over Mineral Ridge’s Abigail Bacorn for the cruiserweight crown, while Gist won the middleweight belt when she earned a unanimous decision over Lyrica Loury of Youngstown Early College.
“She kept her head down so I just kept using my uppercut,” said Burnside. “I’ll definitely be back next year. I’d like to be a three-time champion.”
Tournament founder Chuck Nelson felt this year’s event was one of the best ever.
“This was one of the most memorable nights in K.O. Drugs tournament history,” said Nelson. “All of the boys and girls fought their hearts out.
“We accomplished our ultimate goal and that was crowing dozens of champions in the Mahoning Valley.
Ken Niles of Austintown, a longtime administrative assistant and tournament official, earned the event’s Lifetime Achievement Award.