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Dinner Boxing: Last Course Is Knuckles

Associated Press

Knuckle sandwiches are not on the menu, but when the bell rings in the ballroom of the posh Hotel Sofitel, diners turn to their after-dinner coffee and watch the fights.

“It’s rather a bizarre setup. People think of dinner boxing as eating and having a mouthpiece fall on their table,” hotel manager Michael Hill said.

After a candlelight dinner of seafood cocktails, prime rib and chocolate mousse, the lights go up and Golden Gloves boxers entertain diners with uppercuts and right jabs.

Funds for Golden Gloves

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Dinner boxing gives amateur pugilists a chance to fight in front of a crowd and make money for their club. The winner of each three-round fight gets a red satin jacket, and $10 from every ticket sold goes toward Golden Gloves.

For the spectators, it’s more of a social affair than a sporting event.

Dinner boxing is well removed from a cheap night at a neighborhood gym. Tickets are $25 each and $35 for a ringside seat.

“There’s big money down here tonight,” said Tim Morrison, program director for a Toledo radio station.

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For Urban Professionals

Dinner boxing has become something of a Yuppie craze. Young, urban professionals--mostly men--make up the crowds at dinner boxing cards from Minneapolis to Miami.

“Most of the people there are probably 10 years older than Yuppie status, although they still act like Yuppies,” Hill said.

“I’d like to say we’re trying to further the sport and support the Golden Gloves,” Hill said, but added that dinner boxing began here last winter as a cure for cabin fever. The Sofitel held three nights of boxing this year and plans more next fall and winter, he said. Each night draws about 350 spectators, including some family members of participants.

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“One-two, Ricky. Stick ‘em. One-two uppercut. Throw that left on ‘em, Ricky,” screamed Rosaline Hackney, who cheered her husband on at a recent dinner boxing match.

An Evening Out

Shirley and Dennis Kujawa of nearby Rossford watched the action in the ring with Doug and Carmelita Crocker.

“Mr. Crocker does our income taxes. Our way of paying him is to (take the couple) out to a restaurant or a fun event,” Shirley Kujawa said.

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“I thought it would be kind of brutal, but they’re really well-trained athletes,” Dennis Kujawa said.

“Guys are just eating this stuff up,” Morrison said. “It’s an avenue for gentlemen, versus taking somebody out to the dinner theater and listening to ‘Mame’ or ‘Hello, Dolly’ for three hours, to sit here and get some blood on their shirts.”

He exaggerates. There’s little bloodletting. The most serious injury is a bloody nose, said Curly Braddock, president of the Toledo Golden Gloves Assn.

Must Wear Headgear

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Boxers are required to wear headgear and the doctor at ringside will stop any fight that gets out of hand, said Braddock, a former boxer.

“Nobody gets hurt. Nobody’s out to see the kids get hurt. It’s nothing like the pros--there’s no comparison,” Braddock said.

“It’s a class act,” said spectator Mike Bell. “You can sit down, have a really classy dinner and everybody is pretty well-mannered. It’s a night out on the town with the boys.

Chance to Go Wild

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“You can get wild and yell a little bit--take out your anxieties,” Bell said.

Dinner boxing raises the image of the sport, said Toledo car dealer Jim Yark.

“I would have never gone to one had it been in a different environment,” Yark said. “It brings out a different clientele.”


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