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Fight Night a striking success for everyone

Fight Night a striking success for everyone by Tom Archdeacon for Dayton Daily News, July 17, 2011

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

Austin Wing, who celebrated his 26th birthday Sunday, did so with a present he’s longed for for quite some time. The night before the 245-pound super heavyweight from Drake’s Gym — who had had four losses in the first five fights of his boxing career — had gotten the crowd of some 2,000 that was gathered around the ring in the middle of E. Fourth Street to give roaring support as he stopped Springboro’s Kenny Warrix 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.

And then there was Nick Terbay who wouldn’t have been faulted Sunday if he were bemoaning “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.

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

“No matter what, I want this to be a good night for everybody here,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can.”

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

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

The crowd was an eclectic mix of black, white and brown, all ages, white collars and no collars, folks from the suburbs, the inner city and outlying burgs like New Bremen, Eaton and Urbana.

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

“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 local artist Mike Elsass, downtown gym owner John Drake and myself and now has been joined by others like Trotwood gym owner Milt Pearson, whose son Chris is one of the favorites to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

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

Almost all of the events are free and most of the Punchers & Painters expenses are handled by us without financial help from the city or some community fund. In the process, there’s always been a community group or a project that gets support from our events.

Sprinkled through Saturday’s crowd — which even spilled onto the rooftops of a couple of nearby buildings — were some area boxers of 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 and top contenders Quick Tills, Marvis Frazier and Ron Stander.

“I really like this tonight,” Roughhouse said as he 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.

Nine amateur bouts were on the card and by the third fight — which pitted two young, chunky, 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 from Drake’s who was making his boxing debut.

In the featured girls’ bout, Pepsi Hunter, a DECA honors grad headed to Miami University, upped her record to 9-2 with a decision over Anna Zamora, the 25-year-old Wright State student and Army National Guard member who was also in the ring for the first time.

After two of his Drake teammates lost right before him — 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 Punchin’ Preacher (Williams) was decisioned by Tommy Ayers Jr. — big Wing entered the ring for the main event.

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

Everyone agreed.