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Fairmont to host 15-bout card tonight

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

It might not come with Don King's hair or Vegas' glamour, but boxing is finally back in Fairmont after a 30-year absence.

The Winner's Choice Boxing Club hosts the Fairmont Main Event at 7 p.m. tonight at the East Fairmont Jr. High gym. The event is scheduled to include 15 matches. Thirty boxers from as near as Clarksburg and Winner's Choice and as far away as Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cumberland, Md., and Altoona, Pa. will compete.

The all-amateur event will follow USA Boxing rules.

"We have some good fights scheduled," Winner's Choice club coach Bob Watkins said. "Cincinnati has an awfully good boxing club -- so does Baltimore."

Watkins pointed to three matchups as feature bouts. Winner's Choice club member Matt Barrick battles Clarksburg's Sam Beverly in the 85-pound class. Travis Catonis of Clarksburg takes on Ed Johnson of Baltimore in the 145-pound class. In the heavyweight class, Winner's Choice's Roger Plyman meets Baltimore's Johnny Young.

Tonight's event also features a girl from Cincinnati competing against a girl from Baltimore.

The club, which is non-profit, raised money to host the event via ads and donations from sponsors, Watkins said. He got permission to use the gym from the Marion County Board of Education. The proceeds will be used for uniforms and the club's travel expenses.

"Whatever we make goes back to the kids," he said. "This will help support us. Nobody gets any money out of it. It goes right back into the club."

The club originated at the beginning of the year in Watkins' basement. A gym finally was found in February, and the club has since been traveling to other events in Madison, Arlington, Va., Cumberland, Mary. and Kentucky.

Club members are supervised by Watkins and four other coaches, who are certified by the U.S. Amateur Boxing Association. The association also provides insurance for the members.

"This is for the kids," Watkins said. "We give them something to do. We just want to keep them off the streets and away from drugs. It's a pretty safe sport. A lot of people think this is a violent sport, but it's a different sport than it used to be. The kids are more conditioned."

Also fighting tonight is Winners Choice member Joe Conrad, who started boxing in January with the inception of the club. Now he's No. 2 in the East Coast Junior Olympics. With Watkins' teaching, Winner's Choice has seven state championships.

"(Watkins) is one of the best coaches in the area," Conrad said. "And the only thing he gets out of it is keeping the kids out of trouble."

Admission is $6 for age 16 and under and $8 for adults.

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444.

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