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Local fighters compete in Huntington Toughman

Fighters compete in the 37th annual West Virginia Toughman Contest Friday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

Fighters compete in the 37th annual West Virginia Toughman Contest Friday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. –– Several fighters from throughout Lawrence County fought in the 37th annual West Virginia Toughman Contest in Huntington this past weekend at Big Sandy Superstore Arena, including Ironton brothers Chris and Jeremy Akers, who each won their first round fights Friday night.

Chris Akers, 24, defeated Leck Riffe by TKO in the heavyweight division to move on to fight Saturday night, while also in the heavyweight division Jeremy Akers, 22, claimed victory over Thomas Banks in a unanimous decision over three rounds to move on.

“It felt pretty good to win. It was fun,” Chris Akers said following his victory. “I fought in the Toughman last year, but other than that I just box for fun.”

Chris and Jeremy both said that other than “backyard” practicing growing up, neither has received formal training at a gym. They have, however, participated in Hooks for Books, a program that uses boxing to raise money for schools.

“We’re just naturally tough,” Chris Akers said.

Friday night featured 53 total fights, covering the men’s lightweight (up to 139 lbs.), middleweight (140-159 lbs.), light heavyweight (160-184 lbs.) and heavyweight (185-400 lbs.) divisions as well as the women’s fights with the same divisions.

Besides Chris and Jeremy Akers, other Lawrence County fighters who competed included Brent Ervin, Anthony Edens, Shane Egbert and Stewart Sherman, all of Ironton; Eric Alexander, Saxton Hughes, Cody Engles, Christian Rhoades, Sean Thornburgh and Scarlett Whitley, all of South Point; Alpha Donley and Randy Hardy, both of Pedro; Ronald Harrison, of Coal Grove; Brittany Holston, of Franklin Furnace; and Clinton Pauley, of Kitts Hill.

“We had the largest number of fighters this year in Huntington and without a doubt the largest number of women fighters for any of our cities,” Toughman promoter Jerry Thomas, of West Virginia Sports Promotions, Inc., said. “It was a great event with great competition.”

On Saturday, winning the heavyweight division was Luke Lyons, of Ashland, Kentucky, over Chris Miles, of Huntington; Jameson Wellman, of Huntington, over Chris Kimbro, also of Huntington, in the light heavyweight division; Ben Schalter, of Bidwell, over Jake Taft, of Raceland, Kentucky, in the middleweight division; and Ronald Harrison, of Coal Grove, over Ryan Cisney, of Hurricane, West Virginia in the lightweight division.

On the women’s side, Ashley Grizzle, of South Shore, Kentucky, defeated Jensen Isaac, of Huntington, in the heavyweight division; Anna Groves, of Clendenin, West Virginia, over Hedy Goldy, of Ashland in the light heavyweight division; Maria Hood, of Lavallette, West Virginia, over Dayla King, of Huntington in the middleweight division; and Scarlett Whitley, of South Point, over Kalia Nesser, of Crum, West Virginia, in the lightweight division.

Each men’s champion received $1,000 and a Toughman jacket, while runner-ups received $300 and a trophy. Each women’s champion received a Toughman jacket and monetary amounts were given to each champion and runner-up based on the number of women’s fight entries.

The West Virginia Toughman Contest will continue Jan. 15 and 16 in Short Gap, Jan. 29 and 30 in Clarksburg, Feb. 5 and 6 in Parkersburg, Feb. 19 and 20 in Martinsburg, March 4 and 5 in Wheeling, March 11 and 12 in Elkins and April 1 and 2 in Beckley.