SCRANTON — The last time an outdoor boxing showcase was held in Scranton, “Irish” Gene Reed fought for the last time. In July 1999, a ring was assembled in the street outside Whistles Sports Bar and the event was a success. Now the Irish Boxing Club trainer, along with long-time friend and boxing/event promoter Doug Long, is helping a group of fellow Scrantonians organize the city’s first outdoor fights in 16 years to benefit a local veterans center.
On Aug. 22, in the back lot of the Vault Tap & Kitchen, 25 bouts will be fought to raise money for the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center. The fights will pit Scranton pugilists against boxers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
Close friends Andy Chomko, Sean Manley and Jay May conceived the idea and developed it with an outwardly growing group of volunteers.
Casual planning began after May, co-owner and bar manager of the Vault, suggested the trio revive outdoor boxing in Scranton.
“I remember that they used to do them down at Whistles, and it was a great idea,” May said.
Chomko, a veteran of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Battalion, in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and Manley, a veteran of the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, thought it would be a good opportunity to raise money for veterans in need.
May praised Chomko and Manley for doing positive work in the community. “He (Manley) and Andy are very, very active in giving back to the veterans of the area,” he said.
Once the Irish Boxing Club was on board, Long, who has been in the promoting game for 30 years, began casing the Vault and developing a floor plan for the lot, while Reed, who had a successful career as a fighter before turning to training, began setting up proper matches for the showcase. The pair decided that an all amateur card would be the best way to go for the event and began registering fighters with U.S.A. Boxing.
The event begins at 2 p.m. Fights will run from 3 to 6 p.m, and the lot will be complete with Miller Light beer trucks, outdoor food vendors, a dunk tank, a boxing machine and live music from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“Anything to get more people to come so we can donate as much money as possible to raise for the veterans,” said May.
May added that every bit of the preparation is within the rules of the Amateur Boxing Association and all fighters will have proper equipment and treatment. “We’re pulling all the right permits that we have to pull. Everything is going to be 100 percent up to code.”
Chomko and Manley were charged with finding a proper beneficiary of the fund raising. After touring the Merli Veterans Center, they decided all money raised will go toward buying a new audio/visual system to replace the center’s heavily-outdated setup.
Long said the fighters are looking forward to the showcase. “They’re really excited because of an outdoor show, and they’re really excited that we don’t have to go on the road and fight and we can have a lot of friends and family cheering them on.”
Mike Barasse, a local fighter who will be in the main event, is a long-time friend of Manley, and a community-minded resident of Scranton.
Manley said he was grateful for the club’s willingness to be involved.
Long expressed his appreciation for the organizers. “Of all the years of promoting, I never saw a group so dedicated that has the heart to give the money to their sponsor, and that’s to make sure this was handled the right way. That’s what I was very impressed with with this whole group,” he said.
Chomko is excited about the possibilities of the benefit.
“This gives a very, very good opportunity for people to actually come out and show that they support their veterans,” he said. “I think that this could be a flashpoint for Scranton, everyone getting involved and doing good things.”
Tickets for the showcase are $15 for general admission and range from $30 to $50 for reserved seats. Ticket locations are: The Vault Tap & Kitchen, 301 N. Main Ave., Scranton; Carmella’s Deli, 106 N. Main Ave., Scranton; Studio RD & Co., 924 S. Main Ave., Scranton; Tim Wagner’s Sports Corner, 1827 Sanderson Ave., Scranton; and Loyalty Barber Shop locations in Scranton (342 Adams Ave.) and Archbald (7 Kennedy Dr.).
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
What: Fight 4 Vets Boxing Showcase
Where: The Vault Tap & Kitchen
When: Sat, Aug. 22 from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
More info: The South Side Bandits perform outside from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m, and Tim Kropa will play inside from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.