Area boxers to Golden Gloves

Area products (from left) Jeff Felger, Cierra Coontz and Drew Smith will be competing in the 89th annual Cleveland Area Golden Gloves Qualifying Tournament later this month. Looking on from behind is Salem Boxing Club co-owner Ron Jackson. (Submitted photo)

SALEM — They come from different walks of life and have different reasons for getting into the sport, but five area boxers are all eager for the chance to show their skills when they compete at the 89th annual Cleveland Area Golden Gloves Qualifying Tournament later this month.

The Salem Boxing Club will send Drew Smith (152 pounds), Cierra Coontz (125 pounds), Jeff Felger (178 pounds), Gabe Owens (152 pounds) and Matt Reed (212 pounds) to compete at St. Peter Chanel High School in Bedford. Action starts March 31 and continues on April 1 and April 7.

Smith, who is a senior at United Local High School, also competed in the Golden Gloves tournament last year and is looking forward to giving it a go with another year of experience under his belt.

“It was a great experience for me up there last year,” Smith said. “I got to expose myself to a lot of different fighters with a lot of different styles. Even just watching other fighters I was able to pick up a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do again this year.”

Smith got into boxing after suffering a football injury five years ago and never looked back. What appealed to him was the singular focus that is required inside the ring.

“Boxing is probably the most demanding sport physically and mentally,” Smith said. “You block everything else out in the ring, you don’t have any teammates to worry about. It’s just you and your opponent. I enjoy the challenge.”

The only other high school student among the five competitors is Coontz, who is a junior at Leetonia and will compete as a sub-novice.

“It will be a challenge because it’s my first fight. The experience should be fun,” Coontz said. “I have to expect everything because you never know what’s going to be thrown at you.”

Coontz previously ran track and played volleyball at Leetonia but took up boxing almost two years ago after seeing how much one of her friends enjoyed it.

“The stamina required for track definitely helps me with boxing,” Coontz said. “I like the fact that you get to fight and its a good workout.”

Felger graduated from South Range High School six years ago and became interested in boxing after working with former area boxer Bobby Plegge, who co-owns the Salem Boxing Club with Ron Jackson.

“I never threw a punch in my life before I got here,” Felger said. “I ran track and cross country in high school, but it’s Ohio and I hate running in the cold. I needed something to challenge me and keep myself in shape, so I figured I would try boxing. I enjoy the mental and physical challenge and the discipline required by the sport.”

Felger currently works at a body shop owned by his father. He began training in late December and is looking forward to his first fight.

“The competition should be interesting,” Felger said. “I’m not sure what to expect because I’m new, but I’m sure it will be tough.”

Owens will be competing in his second Golden Gloves tournament. He is a graduate of Carrollton High School and is currently a student at Capital University in Columbus. Reed, meanwhile, works as a maintenance worker in Alliance and is preparing for his first fight.

Regardless of their results at the tournament, Salem Boxing Club co-owner Jackson believes the sport provides value that the competitors can use wherever life happens to take them.

“Boxing is a tremendous character builder,” Jackson said. “Some kids get bullied, and this sport really builds their self-esteem and gives them a lot of confidence to handle challenges.”