NORTH AUGUSTA — Young boxers from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia with dreams of making it to the regional competition converged on the Police Athletic League Boxing Gym on Saturday evening.
The gym held the South Carolina Silver Gloves Championship tournament featuring boxers 10 to 15 years old. The winner of each match now goes on to compete in Wilmington, N.C., in January. Before the tournament began, the night was dedicated to showing the youngest boxers, ages 8 and 9. Most of them were competing for the first time.
“It is a great opportunity for the little ones,” said JoAnne Newman, the administrator for the North Augusta PAL Boxing Club. “We have about 20 kids that have never had a match. They don’t know what to expect. It gives local boys and girls an opportunity to box without the expense of having to travel.”
The rest of the night was for the junior, novice and open class boxers. But, there were still quite a few youngsters who could not compete because there was no one in their weight class. Most automatically moved on, including 12 girls who didn’t have same-weight competitors.
“They are matched on their age, weight and experience,” Newman said. “USA boxing has a very safe record because they are so careful with the matchups.”
Newman is the “matchmaker,” meaning she decided who would compete. The younger boxers have to weigh within five pounds of each other.
“You have to be careful,” she said. “Some of these little boys can go to town. They look like little buzzsaws.”
Hector Valles, 19, of North Augusta, has been boxing with the PAL boxing club for five years. He is in college now, but has hopes of going pro.
“Boxing relieves anger,” he said. “It changed my life. It teaches you respect and responsibility.”
Valles’ younger brother also competes through the program.
Newman and her husband, Noah G. Newman Sr., started the boxing club in 1975. Their son, Noah Jr., was a boxer for team USA. He lives in North Augusta and coaches at the gym with his father.
Everyone who works for PAL Boxing Gym is unpaid, including the doctor that does the physicals before the matches.
Randy Mosley, a retired North Augusta Public Safety officer, has been volunteering with the boxing club since PAL teamed up with it more than 20 years ago.
“They (the Newmans) work really hard to provide kids with a place to go,” he said. “It is a great investment in our community.”
Mosley said he has seen young athletes turn their lives around through the gym’s mentor program.
“This gym is the best bang for your buck this community has ever seen,” he said. “We need to have someone for kids to talk to. I still think it is worth everybody’s time. It is worth the investment for these young people.”