Tom Hanshaw couldn’t help but notice a Toughman Contest trend.
“It seemed like everybody that was fighting and winning in West Virginia were from Kentucky!” Hanshaw said. “We have MMA, pro boxing and amateur boxing in the area. Why not Toughman?”
Hanshaw and East Coast Promotions will formally introduce the Kentucky Toughman competition on Friday and Saturday outside of El Hasa Shriners Temple on U.S. 60 near Boyd County High School.
Fights will begin promptly at 7 p.m. each day, capped off by main events featuring Tom Hanshaw Jr. on Friday and Travis Hanshaw, a state welterweight champion, on Saturday. Action will be moved inside if weather becomes a factor.
As of Wednesday, 30 boxers were registered to participate. Those interested in fighting can register up until noon on Friday. Fighters are to be between 18 and 39 years old and can’t have any professional experience. They will be divided into three weight classes.
More Toughman events will follow, with sites to be determined. Winners from each event will do battle in the state finals, which is tentatively slated for December in Louisville. There, fighters will vie for $25,000 and a chance to advance to national competition in Detroit.
A ring girl competition is also set for this weekend, as a crew of young ladies will be chosen to grace the ring other Kentucky Toughman events.
According to Tom Hanshaw, his house and nearby gym have been buzzing with those clamoring to climb inside the ropes this weekend.
“We’ve got some hellacious tough men,” Hanshaw said. “I mean, these guys are bad.”
He has pinpointed a possible pre-fight favorite. Jeremy Martin, an 18-year-old from Ashland, “is killer,” Hanshaw said.
Hanshaw said he is hopeful that the weekend is successful, but he is aware of past letdowns.
“It’s been tried, it’s failed,” he said, adding that there was a similar event in Pikeville at one time.
Some of Travis Hanshaw’s earliest childhood memories of the boxing ring occurred at Toughman Contests. He remembers one, in particular, in which South Point native Nikki Eplion fought in the main event.
Now, Hanshaw is the headliner. He will face Clifford McPherson, a 5-foot-10 welterweight from Cleveland. McPherson is 2-15, according to boxrec.com.
Hanshaw suffered his first loss as a professional in June, when Ukrainian Taras Shelestyuk defeated him by unanimous decision in Jacksonville, Fla.
Redemption road begins now for the boxer who turns 22 next week.
“That left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “That was my first loss in a long time.”
As much as he’s looking forward to getting back in the win column, Travis Hanshaw is also excited to be a spectator this weekend.
“I love Toughman,” Travis said. “It’s just people who want to win so bad. They won’t stop throwing punches. It’s always the guy who nobody expects to win.”
Advance tickets are $20 general admission, $30 priority seating and $50 ringside. At the door, each costs an additional $5.
Visit kytoughman.com, follow @KYToughMan12 on Twitter, and/or call (606) 232-1772 or (606) 325-6082 for more information.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.