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Sunday, February 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Clark: Hillyard’s weekend of old-school boxing entertainment will be lights out

Sarah Grant Welliver and Chauncy Welliver at their Hillyard Hammer BoxFit gym at 3023 E. Diamond. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Sarah Grant Welliver and Chauncy Welliver at their Hillyard Hammer BoxFit gym at 3023 E. Diamond. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Great news from Hillyard.

None of the punches thrown this weekend will be barroom, sidewalk or angry neighbor related.

At least that’s the case with the fisticuffs that Chauncy Welliver has planned.

Welliver, the former heavyweight boxing champion of Auckland, is hosting what looks to be a highly entertaining evening of old-school boxing Saturday at his BoxFit club in Hillyard’s old Masonic Hall, 3023 E. Diamond Ave.

During his prizefighting days, Welliver fought as “The Hillyard Hammer” in deference to where he grew up.

He also loves the “Lord Mayor of Hillyard” title that my pal Tom Keefe bestowed on the champ last November while prowling with me on Election Night.

The BoxFit bouts (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) will feature young fighters and an amazingly cool main event:

Spokane’s own Pat Ferguson will wage a sparring “exhibition” with the legendary James “Lights Out” Toney, three-time world champion in three different weight classes.

I put quotes around the word exhibition because, well, it’s possible that an actual fight might break out.

So high is Welliver’s confidence in Ferguson, the promising professional cruiserweight he manages, that he said he’ll hand Toney $1,000 on the off-chance he knocks the 26-year-old out.

Okay. That’s reason enough to be there.

Now, it’s a fact that Toney is way over the hill (in his late 40s) and presumably still way overweight (the last time he fought he weighed in at just under the Paulsen Building).

But this guy was a world-beater in his day.

And though he was known for his slick defensive skills, he is still a trained pro who can lob more bombs than North Korea.

Trust me. You get clocked even by James Toney in a wheelchair and I guarantee you’ll be horizontal and seeing stars and twirling cartoon birdies.

There’s always “an element of risk” in boxing, Welliver said. “This could ruin Pat.”

Toney is one of the all-time greats. Just getting to see him in the abundant flesh is well worth the $25 that Welliver is charging for general admission. ($50 for ringside seats, which are all but gone.)

Toney is also a charismatic, multi-talented guy who played Joe Frazier in the 2001 Will Smith bio-flick, “Ali.”

Chauncy is in desperate battle to keep Hillyard boxing alive as a way to help the northeast Spokane community’s youth.

A good organized boxing program has long been a lifesaver for many troubled kids.

“Here’s the reality,” he explained. “Instead of punching that kid at school, come take it into the gym. Come punch the heavy bag and see where it’s gonna take you.”

Boxing took Welliver all over the world.

Quick-witted and articulate, Welliver throws ratta-tat-tat punch lines as fast as his punches.

I once asked the fighter to speculate on which actor would portray him in a Chauncy Welliver movie.

“John Goodman,” he instantly quipped.

I could listen to his hilarious tales about how he sparred with Mike Tyson and how, despite being a rotund (read “fat”) and much-mocked athlete, he still managed to win 13 professional belts, the Auckland title and amass a winning record of 55-12-5.

But when it comes to his passion for boxing, Welliver doesn’t joke around.

“I love my sport. I love my neighborhood. And I care about the future of these kids,” he said.

One thing Welliver has going for him is the 200-pound Ferguson, who won a gold medal at the 2015 USA National Boxing Championships, and is 7-0 as a pro.

“I don’t have the best fighter in Spokane,” stated Welliver. “I have the best cruiserweight in America.”

Ferguson, Welliver said, is getting real interest from heavy hitters in the matchmaking biz, like Oscar De La Hoya.

Welliver is well aware that the “sweet science,” as boxing was once called, has suffered a serious decline in popularity.

The more brutal mixed martial arts style of fighting has lured away younger audiences, much to Welliver’s disgust.

“End of the day,” he said, “it’s just a street fight.”

Boxing has also suffered from a lack of talent as well as the law of diminishing returns.

Fans, for example, longed for years to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao go to war.

They were arguably two of the all-time greatest welterweights.

Then time dragged on. Promises were made and then broken. When the fight finally took place, the combatants were past their prime.

The much-ballyhooed “Fight of the Century” offered less violence than a typical episode of “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Like watching Brett Favre and Joe Montana pass the football to each other,” said Welliver, who promises plenty of real action on Saturday night.

“This will be fun. This will be exciting. This is a reason to come to Hillyard. Come and let’s experience it together.”


UPDATE!! Spokane’s Madison Kerr, demonstrated the power of being profiled in a Clarksville column by winning the 2017 NCAA Division II National Women’s Rowing Championship last Sunday.

Er, that’s one way to look at it.

The correct take, I’ll grudgingly concede, is that Kerr and her Western Washington University teammates displayed the skill that made them the nationally top-ranked team during the crew season.

“We crushed it,” said Kerr when I called to congratulate the 20-year-old.

The championships took place on waters of Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J.

The four boat that Kerr rows on took a commanding win in the Sunday championship matchup with Mercyhurst and Central Oklahoma.

With Kerr were coxswain Madison Moelhman and crew members Nicole Vanderzanden, Mary Harper and Kelly Oberbillig.

Although WWU’s eight boat placed second in the final race, the two combined finishes gave the Vikings of Bellingham a one-point victory (17-16) over Oklahoma for the team championship.

“It was a great experience, although it hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest,” said Kerr, who had never considered rowing as a sport until she joined the team as a freshman walk-on two years ago.

“From what I can tell, it’ll be a really cool thing to look back on.”

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