Gulas: K.O. Drugs celebrating 25 years

When Youngstown’s Golden Gloves competition began to fade in the late 1980s, promoter Chuck Nelson didn’t want to see amateur boxing disappear entirely from the local boxing scene.

Instead, he saw an opportunity to bring teenagers together from other geographic areas — kids from the inner city, suburbs and rural areas who would represent their schools for the right to compete for a championship.

He felt deep down that there were far too many talented pugilists and to leave them without a venue should never be an option.

What began as a mere thought in 1988 has now come full circle as the K.O. Drugs High School Boxing Tournament will celebrate its 25th year of competition beginning May 6 at St. Lucy’s Palermo Center, 404 Tenney Ave, Campbell.

“After 25 years, the K.O. Drugs high school boxing tourney has helped over 2,500 young men and women gain confidence, self-esteem and a mutual respect for one another while competing in the ring as beginners,” Nelson said. “Many former participants have also gone on to further their boxing careers, both in the amateur Golden Gloves and some in the professional ranks as well.”

At 74, the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame inductee has had a lifelong passion for amateur boxing, noting that his tournament is unique since every participant agrees in writing prior to the start to refrain from drug or alcohol use during the month-long competition.

The double-elimination tourney is comprised of three divisions; underclass (ninth and 10th grades), upperclass (11th and 12th grades) and a female division.

Each division is comprised of 15 weight classes with preliminary bouts consisting of three, 45 second rounds with a one minute break between bells.

Championship rounds are a minute in duration.

The tournament, which is designed for beginners, calls safety its top priority.

“Short rounds, extra padded headgear and 18-ounce gloves help keep participants safe,” Nelson said. “Competent referees and cornermen are also an integral part as they ensure a fighter’s safety with roughly 40 fights held each night.”

That first competition in 1988 at Tiffany Manor drew approximately 60 participants while an eight-year stretch from 1996-2004 yielded an average of 140 hopeful boxers.

“Over 130 students entered last year and we were able to crown 30 champions as well as 30 runners-up. This year we hope to eclipse both totals,” Nelson said.

This year’s tourney is set for May 6, May 20 and June 3 with championship-round action slated for June 10.

The event is open to all high school boys and girls in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Mercer counties.

Registration will take place April 13, 20 and 27, and May 4 (late registration) at Dick’s Sporting Goods in both Niles and Boardman.

Sign-ups in Niles will be held between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. while registration at their Boardman location will take place from 3 to 6 p.m.

A $25 registration fee is required of all participants in order to cover their physical exam and health insurance while students 18 years and under will require parental consent.

Tickets for the event are $9 for students and $15 for adults and will be available each night at the door.

More information can be obtained by calling Chuck Nelson at 330-423-2203 or Pat Nelson at 330-727-0932.

Greg Gulas writes about boxing for The Vindicator. Email him at

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