By AL MYATT
Deputy Mark Hornsby of the Harnett United PAL and Lt. Rodney Rowland of the Dunn PAL are looking forward to hosting the USA Boxing Southeastern Regionals Junior Olympic championships at the renovated Dunn PAL Gym at 610 E. Johnson St. in Dunn on Friday and Saturday.
Winners will advance to national competition in Charleston, W.Va., June 25-July 1.
Rowland has been referring those interested in developing their pugilistic skills to Hornsby, whose program operates out of the gym at the former Shawtown school.
Hornsby will be bringing the ring that used to be on the stage at the Dunn PAL back for the regional event.
North Carolina hosts the regional competition every four years, Hornsby said. The Dunn Travel and Tourism Authority put up $1,400 in a successful bid for this year’s event.
The new Fairfield Inn adjacent to I-95 is the host hotel. It will be the site for weigh-ins on Friday and Saturday mornings at 7.
If this weekend’s card goes well, Hornsby and Rowland would like to do an annual boxing show.
“We’re extremely excited and proud to be part of a partnership to bring USA Boxing to Harnett County,” Rowland said. “We hope the community will come out and support it. We are looking for future events to bring to the folks of Harnett County soon.”
Hornsby noted that the regionals will boost the area economically.
“We blocked 35 rooms and we’ve far exceeded that,” Hornsby said. “We’re looking at 60 rooms and that’s not counting the impact on local restaurants and things like that.
“We thank the Dunn Travel and Tourism for their partnership early on to be able to bring boxing to the area.”
The Dunn PAL Gym has undergone a renovation in the neighborhood of $2 million, Rowland said. Rooms To Go has helped furnish rooms to each side of the gym’s front lobby.
A weight room behind the gym has been equipped and locker rooms have undergone significant upgrades.
Still, the growth of boxing events might require a larger facility. Hornsby is looking at Campbell’s Gore Arena and Triton’s gym as possibilities in the future.
There will be boxers converging on Dunn from parts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Chris Simmons from the Angier area is 12 years old and weighs about 90 pounds. He is trained by his dad, Chris, and has the potential to reach the nationals, Hornsby said.
Simmons sometimes trains at the Harnett PAL.
Also coming in will be Maximus Torres from Willow Spring, a 14-year-old, who is expected to contend at 114 pounds.
“Some of these kids have been boxing since they were 8 years old and have 100 or more fights,” Hornsby said. “These kids will be your future Olympians.”
Girls Scheduled To Box
Boxers will range from 9 to 16 in age and from 65 pounds to heavyweight. Hornsby anticipates two bouts involving girls. He is planning 15 bouts for Friday and 18 bouts for Saturday.
Doors open for spectators at 4 p.m. Friday with the action starting at 5 p.m. Fans can access the gym at 3 p.m. Saturday with the bouts getting under way an hour later.
Admission is $10 for students and $15 for adults, daily. Ringside seats are $30.
The two PAL programs will split the proceeds.
Hornsby said there is the possibility of an appearance by Ray Mercer, former Olympic gold medalist and WBO heavyweight champion.
Deputy Mark Hornsby (left) of the Harnett United Police Athletic League and Lt. Rodney Rowland of the Dunn PAL are working together to host the USA Boxing Region 3 Junior Olympic competition at the renovated Dunn PAL Gym on Friday and Saturday.
Daily Record Photo/W.A. Myatt