NORTH LIMA - With three of the first four championship fights at the 27th annual K.O. Boxing High School Championships on Thursday evening consisting of two boxers from the same school facing off, it seemed the fans at the Shops at the North Lima Business Complex were in for a night of good-natured bouts.
By the time Champion senior John Prebonick and Lakeview senior Gavin Clark stepped into the ring for the junior middleweight upperclass championship, that feeling of camaraderie dissipated. Being from rival schools, there was no love lost from the start.
"I wanted to kill him at the beginning," Prebonick said. "I was already in the ring before he (the referee) called our names out or anything."
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Gavin Clark of Lakeview, left, lands a punch on Champion’s John Prebonick, right, during the third round of their match on Thursday night.
Both came out swinging, and at the end of three rounds, it was the Golden Flash who emerged victorious and claimed the belt by unanimous decision. It marked the second time Prebonick won a title at the tournament, the first coming his sophomore year.
This title meant a little bit more for Prebonick considering the Battle of 305 rivalry and the fact the two played for their respective high school soccer teams in the fall, with Clark's Bulldogs winning one and the teams tying the other match.
"I knew him from soccer," Prebonick said. "In my three years (of soccer), we always beat them once or tied them. So, it's always been kind of even, but we one-upped them in boxing."
Coming into the match undefeated, Clark admitted that perhaps he let the heat of the match get to him early, as both boxers managed to take a few good swipes at the each other. That hurt the Bulldog senior later in the fight, however.
"It wasn't my best," Clark said. "I got tired the second round, third round. I went a little too (hard) out the first round."
While Prebonick won his second belt, several first-timers won for the first time, including Niles freshman Richard Palmer. Palmer defeated Liberty's Devan Treharn by a split decision in the super welterweight underclass division.
Although this marked the first time Palmer had participated in the tournament, this wasn't the first time he had been there. Palmer watched as his eldest brother, Dalton, 23, fought when Dalton was in ninth grade and when his other brother, Dillon, fought as a senior in 2012.
Unlike his brothers, though, Richard won a championship.
"Honestly, I couldn't have done it without my brothers or my dad (Rick) to be there to train me and be in my corner," Richard Palmer said. "It was very special to me. I had to do it for them."
On the night, only two matches ended in technical knockouts, with LaBrae sophomore Andrew Cree defeating Mathews' Travis Metz in the underclass heavyweight fight and Mathews junior Colbie Tryon winning his second title in three years by knocking out Mahoning County Career's Ryan Patterson and Technical Center in the upperclass featherweight division.
Cree, who was participating in his first-ever tournament, recorded the first TKO of the night when an uppercut punch landed on Metz, forcing the referee to call the fight.
"It was a great experience," Cree said. "I didn't think I was going to do well out there. I wasn't really well prepared. I'll give him (Metz) props. I thought it was going to be even quicker, but he was really good."
Prebonick and Clark echoed those sentiments about each other following their match. In fact, the two rivals left the ring with some new respect for one another.
"I honestly underestimated him," Prebonick said of Clark. "He came out and he fought hard tonight. I have nothing but respect for him."