Upside Down Under: Fight night in North Dakota…

Written by: Marvin Baker

When we think of boxing, I’ll bet the first thing that enters your mind is Virgil Hill. And for those who may be fairly new to North Dakota, Virgil Hill grew up in Grand Forks, earned a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics and had a very successful professional career.

Hill is the “Roger Maris” of the boxing world and since the summer of 1984, there have been a lot of people who have taken up boxing thanks to Virgil Hill’s success.

Anyone who has an interest in boxing can find a club in which to compete or just work out. All the major cities have boxing and/or martial arts clubs and many of the smaller communities have opened boxing clubs to bolster the activity of their youth.

Unfortunately, boxing isn’t a sanctioned sport in high school like volleyball, wrestling or basketball. It does, however, have a following and is an individual sport like track and field where athletes can excel. One name that comes to mind is Tucker Pudwill of Mandan. I don’t know what he is doing now, but he’s had a successful boxing career.

From 2008 to 2011, I was editor of the Mountrail County Record in Parshall. I received a call one day that community leaders there were considering opening a boxing club. It was actually a return to the ring because Parshall has a storied past in the boxing world.

Anyway, I agreed to follow the progression of this idea. There seemed to be plenty of interest on the street and as time went on after the announcement, more and more kids became interested in taking up boxing. It included several girls that eventually led to competitive boxing in tournaments.

When the club finally opened, it was overwhelmed with interest. It became known as the Bob Walsh Boxing Club and not only were there a lot of kids interested, there were several adult coaches who were committed to making it work.

We often hear about a lack of things to do for youth on the reservation. In Parshall, boxing changed the entire dynamic of that argument. Those kids who maybe weren’t the best basketball players or those who didn’t have an interest in basketball, could go to the ring and get a decent workout during the winter months.

Not only did the Bob Walsh Boxing Club produce several decent fighters, those kids went on to win a number of tournaments through the years. One in particular was the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament held in Bismarck.

The Bob Walsh club took the 2009 team title over the Young Guns Boxing Club of Fort Yates and named six individual champions in that prestigious tournament.
Teams from Grand Forks, Spirit Lake Reservation, Fort Yates, Parshall, New Town, Mandan, Minot and Grafton competed in the two-day tournament that featured more than 100 fighters.

Fred Fox Jr., Chace Hale, Scotty Hale, Jeff Hall, Dewayne Howling Wolf and Savannah Crows Brest all won titles in their individual weight classes and Fox, 8 years old, was named most promising boxer.Fox and Chace Hale both won at 65 pounds, Scotty Hale at 75 pounds, Hall won at 95 pounds, Howling Wolf took the title at 112 and Crows Brest was the state titlist at 150 pounds.

The Parshall club won a total of eight fights with Hall winning three individually. Other fighters who competed for Parshall included Jaiven Hale, Amelio Thunder, Pete Deane, Daniel Hunt and Waylon Gardner.

You might recognize some of the names listed. Several of those boxers were later part of state Class B title cross country teams in New Town. The success of the club in Parshall spawned a similar reaction in neighboring New Town and the next thing we knew, KMHA radio in New Town had begun doing play by play of some of the matches.

This isn’t unique to Parshall or New Town. Enthusiasm for boxing can happen in any small town that has a facility in which to practice. If one isn’t available, move some furniture in the basement or garage and create a makeshift ring. Punching bags are easy to set up and use as well.

Just about every small town in the state has buildings that aren’t in use. Turning them into boxing clubs could re-energize the enthusiasm for boxing, just like it did for hockey some 30 years ago.

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