Rookies come out swinging

NORTH LIMA – Thursday was Richard Palmer’s first fight at the K.O. Drugs Boxing Tournament, but it’s something he’s been preparing for since he was in elementary school.

“I fought once when I was 7 years old,” the Niles freshman said. “It was nothing like this. This fight was fast, physical and seemed like it took forever.”

Palmer held off Brian Norris of Farrell, Pa., in three 45-second rounds to earn a unanimous decision in the underclassmen super middleweight division. Palmer will fight again on April 3 at the North Lima Business Complex.

“I wanted to get up on him quick and just throw as many power punches as I could,” Palmer said. “I knew that my opponent would be just as prepared as I was. I knew I had to come out there swinging.”

His father, Rick, has built a boxing gym in a shed in the family’s backyard. For the last two years, Palmer has been training extensively with his dad.

“We work with the speed bag, punching bag and mitts,” said Palmer, who also plays football for the Red Dragons. “I just haven’t had a real fight until now. I wasn’t sure if I would win, but I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Family encouragement also played a role in McDonald freshman Mike Zarbaugh’s decision to take part in the 27th annual tournament.

His older brother, Johnny, was a three-time champion a few years ago.

“I’ve been watching him box forever,” said Zarbaugh, who earned a unanimous decision over Leetonia’s Joe Vitko. “My whole family motivated me and wanted to see me out here.”

Zarbaugh earned a first-round knockdown and got to Vitko throughout the second and third rounds with strong body shots. He plans to harness his energy more for the later rounds at his semifinal bout next week.

“It feels longer than it actually is,” Zarbaugh said. “At the time, you get tired. Right now, now that I’m out, it doesn’t even feel like I had a fight.”

Zarbaugh has been training with the McDonald track team and runs the 100, 200, 400 and participates in long jump.

“I’m new to boxing and it’s something I’d like to stick to for my high school career,” he said. “I get good grades, though. I don’t want to mess up my head too much. Too many shots to the head can do that.”

Thursday also was Jason Blosser’s first time in the ring. The Howland sophomore earned a unanimous decision in the super middleweight division over Steve Cooper of Mohawk High School in Bessemer, Pa., thanks to his quick feet and fast reflexes when dodging a punch.

“The adrenaline was pumping very fast,” Blosser said. “I was trying to land my own punches and work away. I need to work on my stamina more for next week.”

Liberty’s Devan Treharn is a seasoned veteran in the boxing ring, even though he’s just a freshman. At last year’s K.O. Drugs tournament, Treharn was an eighth-grade champion. However, he had just one fight on the final day.

“I’m glad to be back this year,” said Treharn, who outlasted Hunter Bukovac of Austintown Fitch for a unanimous decision. “It’s been a while since I fought and I thought I was going to throw up after that first round.”

His bout with Bukovac looked to be knotted up after two rounds. The straps on Treharn’s gloves came undone three times in those rounds, but a quick series of bunches to begin the third left no doubt that Treharn would be the winner.

“I was pumped up going into the last round because I knew what I had to do,” Treharn said. “That made me so mad when the straps came loose because it was when I was beating down on him.

“We’ll just have to glue them shut or something next time.”

In the heavyweight division, Mathews’ Travis Metz and LaBrae’s Andrew Cree won their first-round bouts.

Trumbull County’s upperclassmen winners were Gavin Clark (junior middleweight) and Jesse Clark (cruiserweight), both of Lakeview. Jackson-Milton’s Cloten Nitzky won a heavyweight bout.