COLUMBUS — The sport of boxing is back on the rise.
And not just at the national level.
In Columbus, Nick Schleich and Nick Kool are leading a resurgence for the sport.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing some fighters go as far as they can go in it, but you just kind of give kids different opportunities to do something different around here,” Schleich said.
The former pro fighter, who claimed three Golden Gloves championships during his youth as an amateur, started his rise to success in 1992 with The Columbus Boilers Boxing Club, with Kool and Jeff French as coaches.
“I was always kind of a fan, then when I was like 16 years old I decided to pursue it to compete,” Schleich said.
Schleich's amateur success translated to a professional career in the early 2000s.
He started his pro fighting career 7-0 before taking his first defeat in 2003. Schleich continued to fight off and on until 2009, then decided his time inside the ring was up.
After five years away from the sport, Schleich’s passion for boxing led him back, this time in a managerial and coaching role.
In May 2016, he started the Sweatbox Boxing Club in Unit 70 of CB Storage in Columbus with hopes of rebuilding the sport locally.
“I want to get it going good to where we get more kids going to tournaments and stuff. Start building up the amateur program back to what it was around here,” he said.
And he's got his longtime coach, Kool, by his side.
“He’s the guy with the most knowledge around Columbus, so I want that guy on my team,” Schleich said.
Recently, Word of Life Church Pastor Mariano Menendez reached out to Schleich about joining forces to help troubled kids through the sport of boxing.
Menendez, who teaches kids discipline through boxing as part of a six-week class in the spring and fall, hopes Schleich can elevate youth involvement in the sport and church program.
With just over a year in the books, Schleich is focused on expanding Sweatbox Boxing Club and raising money to buy better equipment.
“Get a good-size building with a ring it, bags hanging, stuff like that. That is my goal,” he said.
KaBoomers Fireworks stand helped Schleich get a good start on the fundraising by donating 10 percent of its sales to the boxing club.
Sweatbox Boxing Club will host its main fundraiser of the year July 6 with the first-ever "Boxing at the Bone: The Explosion after the 4th" event at Columbus Event Center (Wishbones). The event will include an assortment of activities for all ages.
“Last year we were kind of setting up rings in people’s backyards, doing some backyard boxing stuff just to get the guys a little bit of experience and stuff,” Schleich said. “This year it’s kind of a fundraiser to pay the bills. Maybe this leads to a bigger location and better equipment.”
The main event is the jumbo gloves world boxing championship, which is a 16-man single-elimination tournament. Each fight will be three one-minute rounds. There is also an arm wrestling event.
Kids' activities include a talent show, Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and inflatable boxing ring.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with events scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
For tickets or entry info, message Schleich on Facebook or call 402-563-0497. Tickets are $5 for all ages.