LIMA — Eddie “Jr. Rocci” Hines and Marquise “The Bear” Valentine are looking to make their way in the world of professional boxing and area fans will get the opportunity to see these homegrown products in action at the “Hometown Heroes” event slated for the Apex Sports Center at 7 p.m. Saturday. The pro/am event is sponsored by NWO Boxing.
Lonnie Rettig, organizer, said the event is in part to the huge success of the sold-out matches fought in February at the Lima Civic Center. This marks the first pro boxing event in Lima in 15 years.
“It was a great event,” Rettig said. “It was a test to see where boxing was in our community and if it was accepted and things like that. Our goal is to put a pro-am on and to have the amateurs see how the pros act in conduct.”
Rettig said that this an all-generation event where children, parents and grandparents are invited to appreciate the art of boxing. He added that this is another step in the growth of making Lima a viable spot for boxing.
“Those that come and see this are witnessing a history in timeline of how boxing is coming from amateurs to pros and eventually a title fight coming to Lima,” Rettig said.
Thirteen amateur fights will kick off the event followed by three pro fights.
The affair will feature up and comers Hines and Valentine, who are looking to make their mark in the pro world. The other main event will feature Lima Central Catholic graduates Toby Grear and Matt Doersten.
Valentine will face Nick Messer who is out of southern Ohio. Messer made his pro debut in April and scored a second round knock out over Joe Hill.
Hines will face Joe Scublyski out of Findlay at 135 pounds.
For Valentine, who has been fighting as a pro for a year, is looking to continue his early success. Valentine is 3-0 and wants to remain unbeaten. Valentine’s first pro fight occurred last July and so he will be celebrating a one-year anniversary and hopes to enjoy more of them in the future.
“These days a lot of guys fight a few years and then go pro and I have actually been at it since I was 10-years-old,” said Valentine, who is originally from Chicago but has resided the majority of his life in Lima. “It has been a long time coming. I have been to a few Golden Glove tournaments and then I decided it was time to take my talents to the next level.”
Valentine got into the fight game at a young age after several of his friends invited him to the gym. Once in the gym he said he felt like he belonged and found out after he had done some boxing that it was in his blood.
“I actually didn’t know that I had boxers in my family until I started boxing, “ Valentine said. “It has been going smooth ever since I started. I just fell in love with it.”
Valentine, who also played football in his teens, came to a point where he had to make a choice between the two sports and went with boxing.
The reality of going pro came after participating in the 2014 Golden Gloves in Las Vegas where coaches encouraged him to make the leap to the next level.
Valentine, who has gotten off to a successful start after winning his first three bouts, said that it takes a lot more commitment once you become pro.
Valentine added that the biggest adjustment is fighting the extra rounds. As an amateur bouts only went three rounds while as a pro he could be fighting 10 and 12 round bouts so stamina, endurance and strategy become more essential.
“I love it,” Valentine said. “We get to fight with no head gear and things like that. You get paid for fighting so I like it.”
Valentine, a heavyweight, said he has been winning because he is quicker than most boxers in his weight class and has great footwork and great movement.
“Guys like to slug it out but I am more of a precise fighter,” Valentine said.
While he is in the infancy stages of his pro career Valentine said he feels he is on the right path and can make a living in the ring.
In addition to making it a career, the love for the sport and his family keeps Valentine motivated.
“If I get far enough in this sport I could potentially support my family,” Valentine said. “It is all driving me to keep going. I would love to cement myself in history somewhere.”
For Hines, who is a late bloomer in his late 20s, it will be his first professional bout and he is looking forward to the opportunity to prove himself.
Like Valentine, who he has known for about 15 years, Hines got into the fight game in Lima at an early age. However, several setbacks have put his boxing career on hold several times, but now he is ready for the pros.
“I always wanted to be a pro fighter,” Hines said. “Especially watching the Rocky movies and seeing him go at it. That is what really wanted me to be a pro fighter. I just want to showcase my talents. I have always been a jack of all trades, but boxing has been my first love.”
Like Valentine, boxing was in Hines’ blood. Hines’ dad was into martial arts and that helped push him into the game.
What Hines learned from martial arts transcended to boxing.
“I love the commitment. The dedication. The hard work. The love and support from the people around you,” Hines said.
Paying his dues at the amateur level, with stops all over the United States and Canada, Hines said he began gearing his career towards turning pro in the last several years.
Hines said one of his strongest attributes is his power.
“Once they feel it they don’t want to feel no more,” Hines said. “Like I said, I have always been a pro style fighter so I have always been choosy and picky of what I throw. I don’t like going in there just throwing punches because it is expected of me. I go in and fight my fight. I listen to my coaches.”
Even though this is his first foray into the professional world, Hines is treating this as “just another fight.”
Hines adds getting paid for what he loves to do is the icing on the cake. He also likes the fact that his first pro fight is going to be in his hometown.
“It is not about the money but getting paid for it is important,” Hines said. “If I have the chance to get like Floyd (Mayweather), I’ll take that type of money but I just want to live comfortably and support my daughter.”
Rettig is hoping this event is a stepping stone to making Lima a boxing community where young pugilists can begin boxing in Lima and branch out.
“The vision is bigger than me and some local boxers,” Rettig said. “We want to have an 8-year-old go through his amateur career, also playing basketball and other sports too, but as he gets older, if he has his sights set on the next level we want him to have that environment here in this Lima area and there is no reason that shouldn’t happen.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1