SALEM - The Cleveland Area Golden Gloves wraps up this weekend at Brook Park Creation Center and three members of the Salem Boxing Club will battle for a belt.
Ben Black, Justin Zehentbauer and Derek Hale are the final three of five Salem boxers who will compete in the 84th annual tournament which drew close to 100 entries this year. Zachary Daniels and Zach Siefke already competed in sub-novice and both lost split decisions. Daniels lost to William Trommel of Empire Boxing in a 152-pound quarterfinal. Siefke was defeated by Jon Sikula in a 165-pound semifinal.
Rather than be discouraged by Daniels and Siefke's losses, Ron Jackson, trainer and co-owner of the Salem Boxing Club, couldn't have been more pleased with his boxers' showings.
"I'll tell you what, just getting into the ring takes a lot of courage," he said. "And both fights were so, so close. I was proud of both guys and I'm looking forward to our other fights this weekend."
Everybody at the Salem Boxing Club is. From all three fighters to co-owner and coach Bob Plegge to co-coach Justin Martino, the Salem boys are ready to rumble.
"We're ready," Jackson said. "Our guys are really excited and I think we have a chance to bring home some belts.
Zehentbauer, a resident of Hanoverton, will fight Ryan Wiegand of Against the Ropes in a 178-pound sub-novice championship.
"Justin is a good man and a good boxer," Jackson said. "He does whatever he's asked to do and does whatever he needs to. As soon as he comes in the gym, he's jumping rope. He does rounds on the speed bag and the heavy bag and goes over to the high school football stadium and runs the steps at Reilly. He does everything we ask and more. He's very dedicated to this sport and dedicated to becoming a better boxer. He just doesn't stop. About a month ago, he broke his nose and h didn't let him bother him. He's really persevered."
Salem's Hale, the club's resident comedian, will trade in laughs for jabs when he takes on Alante Green in the sub-novice superheavyweight final.
"We call Derek 'Giant'," Jackson said. "He's only 22-years old and about 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. He's a big guy with a big heart and is always cracking jokes. He came in kind of late. I think he's only been boxing for about four months now but he's been working really hard and has come a long way. He's really excited to compete at the Golden Gloves."
Heavyweight Black, a Hanoverton resident, is the only Salem boxer not competing in sub-novice. Sub-novice is reserved for those who have no in-the-ring experience. Novice is for those fighters with one to 10 bouts. Open is for boxers with more than 10 fights under their belts. Black, who boxed three bouts before taking a six-year hiatus, will take on Kato Montgomery of the Untouchables Boxing Club in the 200-pound final.
"I met Benny through his wife Jennifer, a nurse at Salem Hospital," Jackson said. "I was sick and she took care of me and mentioned that her husband used to box. I gave her my card, Ben called me up and he came back to the gym about six months ago and has been going hard at it ever since."
All three will fight Saturday. And no matter what happens, Jackson couldn't be prouder of the two that already fought and the three that will step into the ring this weekend.
"The Golden Gloves is a great tournament," he said. "Right now we have three Olympians from Ohio who got there through the Golden Gloves. It's a tough, tough tournament and wins and losses are not what it's about for us. Unless you're planning to go pro, winning is not what boxing is about. It's about finding the courage to get into that ring. It's about putting in the hard work to train. It's about making your body better and dedicating yourself to something. It's about getting into the ring and being proud that you did it."