Fight for the history books

KnockOut Dayton showcases local volunteer boxers for good cause

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Dayton History presents the KnockOut Dayton boxing exhibition on March 1 at Memorial Hall; photo: Tom Greene Photography

Elton John once sang “Saturday night’s alright for fightin,’” and this Saturday is going to be more than an alright time if amateur boxing is your thing. This weekend, Memorial Hall will play host to KnockOut Dayton, an annual charity event that presents local amateurs duking it out to raise proceeds for Dayton History’s educational and preservation efforts.

On the surface, it seems like sort of a novel way to drum up funds for such efforts, but once the idea got tossed around, it piqued the interest of Dayton History officials.

“As soon as [Dayton History] took on the preservation and programming contract with Montgomery County, we started to receive calls from people in the community,” Dayton History President and CEO Brady Kress said. “Two of the first calls said ‘bring back the boxing that occurred [in Dayton] for years.’ Soon after that, I received a call from John Drake [owner of Drake’s Gym in downtown Dayton]. He brought in the general concept to do a fundraiser/boxing expo. Our development department got together with John and the event was born.”

The KnockOut Dayton event isn’t like your typical boxing or “toughman” contest. It is purely an exhibition-style event with volunteers representing local Dayton-based businesses who want to help Dayton History’s cause of preserving and raising awareness of historical education and events throughout the Gem City. The participants, both women and men, spent months training at Drake’s Gym to get their boxing chops in place and ready for the squared circle and all for what everyone involved feels is a worthwhile cause.

“KnockOut is a fundraising exhibition focused on showing off the skills these volunteer fighters have gained through vigorous training for the past three-plus months,” said Lauryn Bayliff, Dayton History director of community development. “The fighters represent themselves, their employer, their sponsor and their community in the ring. Their dedication makes it possible to expose a whole new audience to what Dayton History is all about and helps to gain financial support for the preservation of our local heritage and to educate children and adults about the remarkable history of the Miami Valley.”

One such volunteer participant is Olivia Barrow who works as a staff reporter for the Dayton Business Journal. She said she was intrigued by all the fighters preparing for the event while working out at Drake’s last season.

“I saw all of the 2013 Knockout fighters training last winter and was inspired by seeing them fight at last year’s event,” Barrow said. “I had never gotten in a fight before so I knew it would be a new challenge for me. I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve enjoyed the sparring, and I’m looking forward to proving myself at the fight.”

By day, KnockOut Dayton volunteer fighter Robert Gresham works for the Dayton law office of Freund, Freeze and Arnold. Gresham said he was curious about testing his boxing skills and thought KnockOut was the ideal event to do so – and for such a noble cause.

“It’s an opportunity to promote and support Dayton History,” Gresham said. “I have been boxing at Drake’s for a number of years and finally wanted to put everything together to see what I was made of under the pressure of a very public environment like KnockOut.”

The KnockOut Dayton event begins with a preliminary event at Brixx Ice House downtown for the official weigh-in of all the volunteer fighters on Friday, Feb. 28. The weigh-in also serves as a great opportunity for potential patrons to meet the boxers up close and personal, buy tickets and get more information on the cause. The following night is the main event, as KnockOut Dayton sets up the ring at Memorial Hall and the fighters are unleashed to rumble for all those who want to come out, enjoy some amateur boxing and support the preservation efforts of Dayton History all in the price of admission. After the fights, attendees are encouraged to stick around the hallowed hall for a 1920s speakeasy-style soiree. According to Bayliff, Memorial Hall was a more than suitable venue for their history-driven event.

“The 1920s theme developed out of our historical research of boxing at Memorial Hall,” Bayliff said. “Boxing was at its peak in Dayton during this period and many of the greatest bouts, featuring legendary champs from Jack Dempsey to Muhammad Ali, were held in Memorial Hall. The theme is also a fun way to get the attendees more involved with the event. Guests are encouraged to get dolled up to match the 1920s theme – don’t forget your spats and pearls!”

Perhaps most importantly, Bayliff wants the public to know about the worthwhile causes the proceeds of admission go toward in preserving the rich history of the Gem City for future generations.

“All of the funds are used to help preserve more than 3 million artifacts and over 30 historical buildings in the care of Dayton History,” Bayliff said. “It is our responsibility to also share the stories of the important people, places and happenings throughout the more than 200-year history of Dayton and the surrounding areas. Our goal is to present the past in an educational and entertaining way to inspire future Daytonians to follow the legacy of invention and innovation that is associated with the region.”


KnockOut Dayton takes place Saturday, March 1, at Memorial Hall, 125 E. First St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the fights begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and can be purchased at Carillon Historical Park, Drake’s Downtown Gym, Brixx Ice Company, Lucky’s Taproom and Dublin Pub. For more information, please visit 

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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