LIMA — Ten-year-old Demos Watkins Jr. was a combination of smiles and nerves of steel as his coach taped up his hands in the dressing room before his boxing match at Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center on Saturday night.
Demos had been through the routine plenty of times, but this time there was a little more to it.
For the first time in 30 years, Fight Night at the Civic Center was back. Usually held at the Lima UAW Hall, boxers from 8 to 36 years of age were going at it in style. Complete with entrances to their theme songs and an announcer, 26 boxers fought 13 matches in front of a packed house of more than 400 people.
Demose Watkins Sr., Demose’s father and also a coach for Southside Spartans Boxing, said while the goal is the same the boxers do take notice in the more dressed up approach.
“A lot of time and effort went into this show,” Watkins said. “It is more upscale and it means a lot to the athletes. The most important thing is doing it for the kids.”
It could be seen that the approach was successful immediately from the first match when 8-year-old Aiden Vogt entered with his “entourage” to thundering music. Aiden was pumped, fists in the air. He fought his way to a three-round decision for a victory, jumping up and down when the announcement was made.
“It gives it a more professional feel,” said Marquise Valentine, who is also a coach with the Spartans. “We’re doing it bigger than usual and having something they can take home. An area title that is sponsored by Southside Spartan Boxing.
Valentine said boxers from all over Ohio, as well as Michigan, Indiana West Virginia and Kentucky, had traveled to participate.
Lonnie Rettig, the head of Southside Spartans Boxing, wanted the boxers to enjoy the event as he talked to boxers before the event.
“”We want people to see you,” Rettig said. “Usually, you get in there with your head gear and they don’t even see what you look like. Let them see you, and take your entourages with you. Enjoy it.”
Jolade Omosikegi, 18, and a senior at Lima Senior, has been with Southside for only five months but is already into the boxing scene. He was boxing in the 160-pound class and he has paved out his career in his mind.
“I am here to have fun, Omosikegi said, “but I am serious about it. I want to go to the Golden Gloves, get a belt, and in three years I want to go pro.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.