Changes Coming at Toughman

WHEELING — It’s been said that if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. However, it’s also been said that change can be for the better.

Both apply to this weekend’s 38th annual Original Toughman contest inside WesBanco Arena, which is promoted by Jerry Thomas’ West Virginia Sports Promotions.

According to Thomas, the Wheeling event is the second longest of the eight stops, only trailing Thomas’ hometown of Clarksburg, which is at 39 years.

“We have a really special attraction this year,” Thomas said. “This will be the first time one of our events has been televised live on pay-per-view. It’s also the first time something like this has been done in West Virginia.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” he added. “There is a link on our website (www.wvtoughman.

com) explaining how to order it.”

Prices are $9.99 for one night or $14.99 for both. It will be presented in HD with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, according to Thomas.

Local fighting favorite — Travis “The Terror” Clark is scheduled to be a member of the broadcast team.

Another change is that fighters no longer are required to wear headgear, which was mandatory in years past, despite all the concern over concussions.

“There was an international study done by the Amateur Boxing Federation of approximately 20,000-25,000 fights,” Thomas explained. “It was determined that fewer injuries occur without headgear.”

He said one of the issues was the fighter’s sightlines and another being the chin straps.

“If a fighter gets punched in the headgear a certain way the chin strap can be forced against their throat and choke them,” Thomas noted. “It can also cut them on the facial area.”

Thomas said Olympic fighters no longer wear headgear, nor do amateur boxers 18 years and older.

“Amateur boxers in West Virginia are wearing 6 oz. gloves and no headgear. Toughman fighters wear 16 oz. gloves,” Thomas continued. “We’ve had five events so far and probably 400 bouts. We have not had a single problem. It also allows the spectators to see the fighters’ faces. Sometimes fans had a hard time recognizing the fighters, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. We’ve taken a survey of fighters from our previous events and it’s been unanimous that they like the no headgear rule.”

This year’s contest has drawn the largest number of possible participants as 181 have already signed up. Thomas said they had to deny some fighters due to time constraints on both nights.

“That’s a high number. We had to turn away quite a few,” he said, noting that last year drew 160 fighters.

Another new addition is the fact that fighters are now allowed to win up to three championships.

“We’ve had quite a few previous two-time champions come back to fight at our previous events, but, honestly, they didn’t do very well,” Thomas added. “Between Mother Nature and Father Time, that makes a big difference.”

The event is sanctioned and supervised by the West Virginia State Athletic Commission, with Commissioner Tony Figaretti of Wheeling presiding.

Doors open at 6:30 and action begins at 7:30 both nights. The colors will be presented by the United States Marine Corps, with Brandie Morris performing the national anthem.

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