LIMA — The bell dinged and the ring became a whirlwind of red and blue boxing gloves.
Clad in thick headgear and firing off a crazy amount of jabs and hooks, Lima’s Jerry Denson and Cincinnati’s Daveon King-Fisher didn’t waste a moment because there were none to waste.
“It’s non-stop action,” said Southside Spartans assistant boxing coach Corey Budd. “You’ve only got two minutes a round (for three rounds). It’s controlled, there’s a method to it, but you gotta go at it.”
More than 50 young boxers in a wide range of weight classes and age divisions from around Ohio went at it furiously in the finals of Saturday’s Ohio State Silver Gloves boxing tournament at the Lima VFW. The winners in each division got a ticket to the Regional Tournament in Cincinnati on Jan. 17-19. The winners there move on to the Nationals on Jan. 26-31 in Lenexa, Kansas.
It was the first time the Ohio State Silver Gloves tournament was in Lima. A year ago, Southside Spartans’ head coach Lonnie Rettig brought the State and Regional Junior Olympic tournaments to Lima and was able to petition, and then get, this weekend’s Silver Gloves tournament.
“It’s the first time it’s been a three-day tournament and everybody loves it,” Rettig said. “Lima is a good location because it’s an hour-and-a-half from just about any city.
“My goal is to bring boxing to Lima, to get Lima on the map with boxing and do it more and more often. I’m trying to bring as many events here as possible and create an atmosphere where boxing can grow in Lima.”
Rettig said his goal is to have six to eight boxing events in Lima a year — they’ve averaged around four — along with a major tournament like this weekend’s. As the Southside Spartans’ coach for 20 years, Rettig said he’s seen boxing in the area grow steadily.
“But it’s been very, very slow,” he said. “It’s hard to get these guys experience. We travel a lot. So my thought is to get boxing to come here to us. My hope and dream is that Lima gets to see these guys.”
And what helps grow the sport isn’t just local families seeing their boxers fight, but fans of the sport seeing the high level of talent from across the state. That was certainly on full display this weekend with boxers from Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati as well as cities the size of Lima.
“They come from everywhere so you can imagine the level of talent that is fighting here,” said Budd, who was coached by Rettig. “What you see here is future Olympians, and possibly future world champions. Some of these kids have so much talent, and if they stay the course they’ll go very far with it.
“It’s an amazing, amazing thing Lonnie is doing, trying to grow the popularity of the sport here in Lima. We’re trying to touch lives and change lives.”
One of Rettig’s top current boxers is 15-year-old Javionte Gaddy, who beat Cleveland’s Reno McCoy by decision in the 112-pound, senior division championship Saturday to qualify for his third trip to regionals.
When asked how many family members had come out to see him fight this weekend, he unfurled a long list of relatives.
“It’s a big thing to have all my family here supporting me for a big tournament,” Gaddy said. “My cousins got me into boxing because I lived across the street from the gym. I enjoy it. I’ve been to a lot of cool places and met lots of different people and made new friends. And people don’t pick on me.”
One of the cool places he fought at was last year’s International Tournament in Missouri, a tournament with six rings and thousands of people.
“(After fighting there) it let me know I could step in the ring with anybody,” said Gaddy, who was one of three Southside Spartans to compete and win a match at the International Tournament.
“Javionte is on a roll right now,” Rettig said. “He’s been at it since he was 11, and he’s really starting to grow into himself. The team is performing really well, they’ve all stepped up. We have a lot of inexperienced guys who are starting to take hold.”
A year ago, Southside got two boxers to the State Silver Gloves tournament and Rettig is hoping to raise that number to four or five this month.
Lima’s Southside Spartans sent 11 boxers to this weekend’s state tournament, including Emilio Rettig, Kanye Williams, Jerry Denson, Javen Williams, Taji Breland, Jordon Sexton, Cisco Lugo, Cruz Lugo, Nick Harrod, Jahosh Allen and Gaddy.
While the aforementioned Denson lost his semifinal match, three Lima boxers qualified for regionals prior to Saturday’s action due to byes — Rettig, Harrod and Allen.