Jul 31, 2018

High School Boxing Today: The Crosstown Smoker of Kalispell, Montana

Boxing used to be a really big deal. In the early days of the 20th century, immigrant boys growing up on the mean streets of the Bowery or South Philly dreamed of gaining fame and fortune with their fists.  Millions of people tuned in their radios to hear about Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling, and Sixto Escobar.  Every high school had a boxing club.

Of course, part of the attraction was watching muscular guys with their shirts off.

The sport has fallen out of favor, especially on the high school level; parents today often think it's a bad idea to encourage their kids to take their shirts off and punch each other.

There are only a few boxing clubs at public high schools in the United States, all formed recently in an attempt to revive the sport.

Then there's the Crosstown Boxing Smoker in Kalispell, Montana (a smoker is an amateur boxing competition between gyms or clubs, so named because of the clouds of smoke that hung over the event).

It started in 2010 as a fundraiser for Glacier High School to pay for its wrestlers to go to out-of-town competitions,but soon it took on a life of its own, as amateur high school boxers began to train for it.

You couldn't study boxing in the school itself, so students sought out the Straight Blast Gym, Hard Knocks Boxing and Fitness, and Burton Boxing in Kalispell, the Montana Athletic Club in Bigfork, and Next Level Fitness in Whitefish.

The 9th annual smoker, in April 2018, drew nearly 70 high school students from Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Flathead, Glacier and Whitefish, and raised $100,000 for the school.

All bouts consist of 3 one-minute rounds.

Boys and girls compete.  Opponents are matched by weight class, just like in professional boxing.

I checked out the school records of some of the athletes, to see what else they were into. Wrestling was popular, obviously, but also football, cross-country, track and field, drama, marching band, and student government.

And fishing.  Apparently they're a well-rounded group that considers boxing just another path to physical and psychological well-being.

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