WELLSVILLE - A group of eight young people were seen fighting in the street on Saturday afternoon in front of the Elks Lodge on Riverside Avenue in Wellsville. A large crowd of people, including village Mayor Susan Haugh, witnessed the spectacle.
There was no need to call the police, however.
The fighters were participating in a free boxing exhibition put on by Board's Boxing of Knoxville as part of the Wellsville Elks Lodge 1040's inaugural Chili and Soup Cook-off. The event was held to raise funds for the lodge's charity outreach, including veterans assistance efforts and helping the families of those afflicted with cerebral palsy.
Deviny Merriman, 6, watched intently while Corinne Freeman (orange and black) and Shianne Gist (white and black) sparred during a boxing exhibition hosted by the Wellsville Elks Lodge 1040 on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Joe Board, manager and trainer at Board's Boxing, says he was approached by a lodge member with a request for his support at the event's first outing. Board liked the idea, believing it would be an opportunity to lend assistance to a good cause, as well as to show off the talents of his young boxers. "I went, you know what? I'll bring my ring and set it up, and I'll have a sparring session with the kids in here for all Wellsville to come and see what we do," he said.
Board's fighters sparred in several two-round bouts, mostly according to age and sex. Occasionally, though, there were match-ups between male and female fighters. A few in the crowd quietly expressed misgivings, but had their minds changed by the speed, power and competitiveness of the girls.
One of them was 20-year-old Shianne Gist of Calcutta, a three-times Golden Gloves champion who has her sights set on making the U.S. Olympic team. Gist says the thrill of boxing is what made her decide to stay with the sport after first trying it four years ago. "It's the best high you'll ever get," she said.
There were benefits connected to it that Gist says she feels outside of the ring, too, such as greater discipline, patience, physical fitness and friendships made among other fighters. "It makes you grow as a person," she said. She hopes to attend the Art Institute in Pittsburgh and eventually design her own line of boxing gear especially for women fighters. "I'm a tomboy at heart, but I'm still a girly-girl," she said.
Gist was presented with an award for her efforts before the bouts began, along with Glenn Mitchell, a 22-year-old family man from Steubenville who has dreams of eventually challenging for the world title. The multiple Golden Gloves winner has also been fighting for four years with a 19-6 record as an amateur, and hopes to turn pro soon.
Mitchell says he considers boxing to be both individual and team sport simultaneously. "You walk into the ring, and it's you and your opponent, but you also have your trainer behind you," he said. It helps that he and Board have what he calls a father-son relationship.
Mitchell also says he's gained confidence, discipline and respect for others from fighting. "Boxing is the only sport in the world, I believe, where you can get hit in the mouth or hit in the nose and say, "Hey, good job, buddy!' It teaches you a lot," he said.