Fight Night — “Cool event” for steamy evening & PHOTOS, too

July 17th, 2011 - Gallery Events, In the News, Mike Elsass

Fight Night – “Cool event” for steamy evening and photos, too by Tom Archdeacon for Dayton Daily News, July 17, 2011

Darrence Williams – The Punchin’ Preacher – will take the pulpit in his West Dayton church this afternoon with a cut on one cheek, some bruising and puffiness on the other and – thanks to his toe-toe middleweight bout Saturday night in downtown Dayton – some real street cred when it comes to his sermon on doing battle with the devil.

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The Punchin’ Preacher Darrence Williams checks his nose after Saturday night’s fight. (Photo by Tom Greene)

Austin Wing – who is celebrating his 26th birthday today – is doing so with a present he’s longed for for quite some time. The towering 245-pound super-heavyweight from Drake’s Gym – who had had four losses in the first five fights of his boxing career – had gotten Saturday’s crowd of more than 2,000 who gathered around the ring set up in the middle E. Fourth Street to give roaring support as he stopped a smaller Kenny Warrix of Springboro in the main event of the Drake’s “Fight Night show.

“The emotions, all that adrenaline I felt up there, the crowd cheering – I can’t imagine a better birthday,” gushed the grinning Wing as he lumbered from the ring afterward.

And then there was Nick Terbay who wouldn’t have been faulted today if he was thinking “what if?”

The Dayton heavyweight – who works as a recreation leader at the Bomberger Center – had so wanted to fight Saturday night that he drove to Zanesville and back in the morning just to get his USA Boxing passbook okayed by a sanctioning rep there.

But his trip ended up for naught when his out-of town opponent didn’t show up. Yet rather than sulk, he threw himself into working the corner for five of his Drake’s gym teammates.

As he put it: “ No matter what I want this to be a good night for everybody here. I’ll do whatever I can.”

Scuffs, smiles and open arms – that pretty much sums up Drake’s Fight Night Saturday in downtown Dayton.

The evening was a rousing success, not just for what happened in the ring, but for all that went on around it.

Although the day’s 90 degree temperatures had the place pretty steamy Saturday evening, it was, as Deneicka Johnson put it, “a cool event.”

A Dayton school teacher, she stood with her husband, Ron, on the edge of a crowd and surveyed the scene: “Look at everybody here, young old, from all over town. There’s something for everybody to enjoy and they’re all doing it peaceably. We need more things like this in Dayton.”

One of the most appealing things of the night was the crowd: An eclectic mix of black and white and brown, all ages, white collars and no collars, folks from the suburbs, the inner city and outlying burgs like New Bremen, Eaton, Xenia and Urbana.
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Yolanda Byrd sings the national anthem as ring announcer John Drake awaits. (Photo by Tom Greene)

And there was no trouble. Just people shoulder to shoulder. having fun and sharing a slice of the poor-man’s version of a Vegas fight show, complete with a white tuxedo-clad ring announcer (John Drake), sashaying ring card girls, a ringside artists colony sketching the action, and a rousing national anthem singer in Yolanda Byrd, the Alter High grad who sings with the Deron Bell Band.

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Anna Zamora made her ring debut. (Tom Greene photo)

Fight Night was part of the five-week, multi-event Punchers & Painters festival which celebrates boxing, art and downtown Dayton. It’s a grassroots effort begun a year ago by three of us – local artist Mike Elsass, downtown gym owner John Drake and myself – and now joined by some other like-minded supporters like Trotwood gym owner Milt Pearson, whose son Chris is one of the favorites to make the U.S. Olympic boxing team for the 2012 London Games.

This Friday night Punchers & Painters will host “An Evening with Buster Douglas” – the former heavyweight champ (one time Sinclair Community College basketball player) and the first man to dethrone Mike Tyson – at the Color of Energy Gallery in the Oregon District.

All but the Dayton Dragons fight show Aug 12 are free. Although 16 ringside tables were sold for the Drake’s show, the Dayton Daily News donated the medals given the boxers and Price Stores provided Drake’s wardrobe, most of the Punchers & Painters expenses are handled by us without financial help from the city or some community fund.

“You just do what you can to help make our town better,” said Elsass, speaking for all of us.

In the process, there’s always been a a group or a project that gets a little support from Punchers & Painters. A year ago it was the girls’ boxing team at the Westwood Center
This year it’s to help finish the under-funded 8-foot statue of the late Davey Moore, the popular Springfield boxer who was an Olympian and the world featherweight champ before dying – at age 29 – from a freak injury suffered in a 1963 title defense. Once completed, the impressive Moore likeness – which is on display at Drake’s gym – will be erected in downtown Springfield.

Saturday night, several members of the Moore family – including two of Davey’s children – sat ringside, At the next table was the family of Anna Zamora, the 25-year-old Wright State student and Army National guard member, who made her boxing debut

Sprinkled through the crowd – which surrounded the ring and even had other folks viewing from the rooftops of a couple of nearby buildings and the windows of the St. Clair loft apartments across the street – were some area boxers of special note.

There was Donnie Branch, now the trainer at the Prodigy Gym in Springboro, but once one of the top amateurs in the nation, and there was Tommy Ayers, the Cincinnati welterweight, who was a top contender for the crown in the 1980s. One time Marine champ Terry Dixon was there as was Dayton policeman and boxer Chris Fischer. So was his older, better known brother, Tom “Roughhouse” Fisher, the hard-nosed Dayton heavyweight whose 34—11 record includes bouts against champions Leon Spinks, Jimmy Young and Michael Dokes ( I saw that fight on the undercard of the Muhammad Ali-Larry Holmes fight at Caesars Pace in Las Vegas in 1980) and top contenders Quick Tills, Marvis Frazier and Ron Stander.
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Ringside artists Mike Elsass and Lesley Walton (Photo by Tom Greene)

“I really like this tonight,” Roughhouse said as stood in the middle of the crowd. “I’m glad to see boxing come back here a little bit.”

Dayton was once a good boxing town and Saturday night it was again.

There were nine amateur bouts on the card and by the third fight – which pitted two young, chunky and very game heavyweights – the crowd was into it.

In that bout, Mike Bass, a 14-year-old Northmont eighth grader who fights out of Trotwood’s Prime Performance Gym and said he’s had 15 fights, won a close decision over Cory Lehmkule, a 15-year-old Ponitz Tech freshman who represents Drake’s Gym and was making his boxing debut.

In the featured girls’ bout, Pepsi Hunter, a DECA charter school honors grad who is headed to Miami University, upped her record to 9-2 with a decision over Zamora, who came on strong in the final round.

After two of his Drake teammates lost right before him in rousing efforts – light heavyweight Ray Smith was barely edged out by Dayton Metro’s Jeff Camp (even though the winner said he’s had 23 bouts and Smith has had just five) and The Punchni’ Preacher (Darrence Williams) was decisioned by Tommy Ayers Jr. – big Austin Wing entered the ring for the night’s final bout.

And once he had won and made his way back to the dressing room, Wing tried to fight his way through the rush of emotions to fing some words. Finally he just said, “What an incredible night!”

That pretty much summed it up for everyone.

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