Sharpsburg's Pride of Pittsburgh to be 1st local sanctioned boxing event in 15 years

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In 1998, an amateur boxer named Jose Caraballo and the rest of a full fight card sold out the Linden Gymnasium in Sharpsburg. It was so crowded people were turned away at the door.

That night 15 years ago marks the last time a sanctioned amateur boxing card was staged in Sharpsburg.

There have been a lot of fighters and a lot of trainers since then, but there hasn't been the same kind of event. Caraballo, now a professional boxer who runs the Ray Schafer Boxing Association Gym, met Howard Swimmer, the president of HRS Management, an artist representation agency, and they decided the wait had been long enough.

Caraballo and Swimmer are bringing a sanctioned event back to Linden on Aug. 24 in Sharpsburg, the same gym Caraballo fought in fifteen years ago. There are 15 fights scheduled -- three rounds of three minutes each, and all of the boxers are local, Pittsburgh-based fighters.

Sharpsburg fight night

  • When:

    Aug. 24. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., bouts begin at 7:30.

  • Where:

    The Linden Gymnasium, 205 N. Canal St.

  • Tickets:

    $20 for general admission and $25 for ringside. Tickets can be purchased at the Ray Schafer Boxing Association, Guyasuta Printing, and the Pittsburgh Pizza & Grill, all in Sharpsburg.

  • Sponsorship:

    A limited number of sponsorship tables are available at $500 a table. Call 412-708-5395 for more information.

"It's a community-based transaction," Swimmer said. "The interest is there not because it's a boxing event. If it was just a boxing event, nobody would care. It has a humanitarian factor to it, it's a 'do good' event for the community. Who wouldn't support something like that in your own community?"

The plan for the newly created circuit, called the "Pride of Pittsburgh" boxing show, is to have a fight card every 45 to 50 days. Boxers who win a match get a belt and then have to defend that belt three times before it's theirs to keep. This is different than most unregulated, unsanctioned events that leave a lot of young boxers out of the loop.

"Guys get some trophies or those medals and then they walk out of the gym for a month or two because they don't know when the next show is coming up," Caraballo said. "Howard and I said that it's falling apart because you call guys for a fight show, and guys aren't ready because they've been out of the gym for a month.

"The kids [who] win a title have to actually fight for a belt, take their rest, get back in the gym, get off the street and defend their title."

Previously, the only two sanctioned circuits in the area were the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio Championships and the fabled Golden Gloves tournaments. Now, with the advent of the Pride of Pittsburgh belt, boxers will have a chance to be crowned as unanimous champions if they win all three events.

One of the amateur boxers who could potentially earn that title is Eric Sydnor, who is competing at the Pride show in the 178-pound division against Jarrell Brackett. Caraballo's star fighter already is a two-time Golden Gloves champion even though he has been boxing for less than three years.

The left-hander, who is originally from Long Island, N.Y., didn't pick up the sport until he moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 to start college at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he studies animation.

Sydnor met Caraballo a few months after the move, and the two have been training together since. He's one of the main events for the Pride of Pittsburgh show on a card full of Golden Gloves champions and guys who are expected to turn pro soon.

Animation and boxing don't seemingly go together. One requires delicate hands, while the other requires hands that are as hard as stone. But for Sydnor, the connection isn't as random as it seems.

"My first year in the Golden Gloves, I went to Erie and fought someone named Montel Jones," Sydnor said. "He was taller and quicker, and I swear he hit harder, but I had to find a way around it and be as creative as possible to hurry up and figure out what else to do. Same thing with drawing -- you don't want to do what everybody else does. You want to do something different and better."

You could say the same thing about the Pride of Pittsburgh show. Swimmer is a businessman. Caraballo is a boxer. Together, they're hoping to do something different and better.

"As long as we all stay together and fulfill the plan, I think we have a very high percentage of a chance to do something great," Caraballo said.

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Everett Cook: and Twitter @everettcook.


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