By Greg Gulas
The 25th K.O. Drugs H.S. Boxing Tournament will commence April 9 with over 100 hopefuls committed to the milestone event.
While the names, faces and even venues have changed over the years, the one constant stressed to the athletes every year has been to remain drug and alcohol free for the event.
Hopefully beyond, founder Chuck Nelson noted.
“The idea for the event came to me in 1988 and it was my goal then, as it remains today to run an event where the participants wholly dedicated themselves to remaining drug and alcohol-free while competing.
“The bigger picture is that they will dedicate themselves to boxing or whatever sport they choose, all the while remaining substance-free,” Nelson said.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, Nelson said the event grows every year.
“We’ve had over 4,000 boxers take part over the years and that in itself tells you how much they anticipate the yearly event. We have three divisions, using ninth grade as our cut-off for those wanting to compete.
“We have made exceptions on occasion, however, and with a parent’s permission will allow an eighth-grader to participate. We don’t permit anyone younger that eighth-grade to enter,” Nelson added.
The past president of the Golden Gloves Trainers Association, a post he held for five years, Nelson stressed extra precaution is taken to ensure the safety of all who enter the ring.
“We use 18-ounce gloves and mandatory head gear padded with high cheek bone protection. Each match is three rounds and each round just 45 seconds in duration.
“There’s always a ring-side doctor and an ambulance and crew ready if necessary and so far, the precautions that we have taken have really paid off,” Nelson said.
The three divisions include a junior or underclass division, featuring ninth and 10th grade boxers; an upperclass or senior division which features 11th and 12th graders, and a female division, which continues to generate interest and has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We’ve been fortunate in that we haven’t had much turnover throughout the years. From those willing to lend a hand at tournament time to those working the event, all want to make sure that everything comes off as smoothly as possible.
“We’re blessed in that Tom Miller, our highly respected international boxing judge from nearby Mineral Ridge, has agreed once again to serve as head official,” Nelson said.
This year’s event will take place on April 9, 16, 23 and 30 at St. Lucy’s Palermo Center in Campbell. The semifinals will be April 23 with the championships slated for the following Monday.
Fights will begin at 7 p.m. and those still interested in registering for the event can do so by calling Nelson (330-423-2203) or his son Pat (330-727-0932).
“Our goal originally was to become a national tournament and while steps were taken in the past toward achieving that goal, it just hasn’t happened.
“We continue to thrive locally, however, and believe that not only is this one of the finest amateur events in the area but statewide,” Nelson said.
The next Curbstone Coaches meeting will be April 16 when Jon Jones, golf pro at Youngstown Country Club, will be guest speaker.