WEST SALEM — Just about everyone in attendance at the first professional fight night ever held at Northwestern High School, or any area school for that matter, would agree it was a success.
The outcome of the 10-round, main-event between Marc Salser and Chris “Hurricane” Howard for the IBA Continental Super Lightweight Title Belt on Saturday night, now that was a different story.
Salser, from nearby Mansfiel
d, had nearly the entire crowd of about 1,100 on his side as he rallied late for a split decision win over Howard, which left the fighter from Crossville, Tenn., and his entourage crying foul.
Salser (15-0) and Howard (14-2) were just about even on the judges’ scorecards until the final two rounds when the local known as “Marc the Shark” pulled out the win. Two judges scored the fight in Salser’s favor (96-95 and 96-94), while a differing judge ruled it in Howard’s favor (97-93).
“It means a lot,” said Salser, after winning a matchup between fighters with contrasting styles in and out of the ring. “I didn’t win quite the way I wanted to, but I did what I had to do.
“Chris Howard came into the ring ready to fight and it turned out to be a war.”
The 23-year-old Howard did a lot more talking in interviews leading up to the fight, doing everything from critiquing Salser’s physique, training regimen, past opponents and even age.
And, as promised, Howard delivered significantly more punches throughout the fight, but the 30-year-old Salser and his team felt he landed more quality shots to sway the judges.
“I thought I hit him with a lot more powerful punches,” Salser said. “We knew he’d throw a lot more punches, so my main thing was to slip and move and make him miss. I wanted to wear him down so I could win it in the later rounds.”
Mickey Scodova, who trains Salser and also used to work with retired boxer “Raging” Craig Weber from Perrysville, said when the decision is left to the judges anything can happen.
“That’s boxing, it comes down to the judges a lot of the time,” said Scodova, after a brawl between 139-pounders in which neither one could deliver even a single knockdown. “Ten rounds is a lifetime out there.”
Scodova said a representative from the Ohio Athletic Commission told him the afterward that the fight was even entering the 10th round.
“I think Marc won it in the end, but there are things he needs to work on,” Scodova said.
Adrian Patrick from Atlanta-based Gladiator Promotions, which handles Howard, didn’t mince words in ripping the decision.
“Chris got screwed, by the officials and the (Ohio Athletic Commission),” Patrick said. “There’s no way Salser won that fight — at best he only won four rounds. We’re not focusing on a rematch, we want this injustice corrected. … Decisions like this are why people get down on boxing. I won’t have another fighter come to Ohio.”
A highly dejected Howard estimated he threw “double or triple the number of punches. I’d beat him to the punch and throw about 15 punches and he’d throw two.”
While the main event decision was controversial to some, Northwestern superintendent Jeff Layton and principal Mike Burkholder had no regrets about giving IBA president and 1959 Husky alum Dean Chance permission to bring the fight night to the school after a previous deal at Ashland University didn’t work out.
“I think it’s really been a fun night,” said Layton, as he watched the main event from a ringside seat. “I did not expect the number of families to come out that did, which impresses me.
“I know there were a few people in our community who expressed that they were uncomfortable about us bringing boxing here, but Dean came to us and said he needed help.
“He has done so much for our community, so we decided to see what we could do. When we considered the rental fee that would be paid to our school, the money we could make from our All-Sports concession stand being open and also the chance to help Dean we decided to do it. And we also thought it would make for a fun night.”
The action in not only the main event, but several of the undercard bouts was fast and furious. What Layton liked just as much as the ring action was the class shown between the fighters.
“You watch them during the fights and after when they congratulate each other and it was really good sportsmanship,” Layton said. “That’s what we try to teach our high school student-athletes.”
Ashland University football coach Lee Owens and athletic director Bill Goldring were among those in attendance.
Burkholder smiled when asked if he ever thought Northwestern would host a professional boxing match.
“It’s certainly unique to the area,” he said. “It happened kind of fast after Dean asked us, but everyone I’ve worked with has been top notch.”
Highlighting the four-round undercard bouts was junior middleweight Gabriel Garza (2-1) from Detroit, who displayed impressive punching power to win by unanimous decision over Augustine Cicero (1-2).
In the only mismatch of the night, heavyweight Brian Holstein from Columbus(4-0) provided the only knockout after flattening Levi Bowling just 1:14 into the first round.
Winning by split decision were junior welterweight Angel Figueroa (2-1) from Lorain over Afrim Mema (1-2) and welterweight Johnny Martinez in his pro debut from Galion over Greg Bankston (0-2).
Chance, who led Northwestern to state titles in both baseball and basketball in the late 1950s and went on to win the 1964 Cy Young Award pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, thanked his alma mater several times for hosting the event.
“I really want to thank Northwestern, Jeff Layton and everyone else who helped us tonight,” Chance said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetme thing.
“I never thought I’d bring a fight here.”
Aaron Dorksen can be reached at 330-287-1621 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adorksenTDR.
Category: Misc area sports