OLEAN — It’s been nearly three decades since Dan Shembeda last laced up a pair of boxing gloves.
Still, he’s way fired up about Saturday evening.
That is to say he, and his former cornerman and current WPIG/WHDL general manager Jack Morton, will be the announcers at tomorrow night’s inaugural Red and Gold Rumble boxing card at Olean High, beginning at 6 o’clock.
At least a dozen bouts are set for the OHS gym which will benefit both the Olean High Booster Club and Western New York boxing. Ringside tickets are $20 and general admission is $10.
But Shembeda, an Olean plumbing contractor, is looking back.
Now 55, he boxed successfully for four years as an amateur until a third broken bone in his hand ended his career.
“I WAS NOT a pretty puncher ... I was a basher,” said Shembeda, a former wrestling star at Olean High. “And boxing is a lonely sport. As much as I liked it, I also loved softball and when I broke my knuckle, my finger and my thumb — maybe it was the way they wrapped my hands — but I was in a cast for 10 weeks and that just killed me (softball-wise). The funny thing is, I got into boxing when I was 22 because I was the City Cup (softball) MVP and I was in great shape and it seemed like a good idea.
“I didn’t get into it to learn boxing ... it was the vicious battles. I went to Pittsburgh and Buffalo and Ashtabula (Ohio) for fights and they were brawls.”
THESE DAYS, Shembeda has immense respect for fighters from that era, especially the ones he befriended during his days in the Bradford Boxing Club.
“We’re going to have a table set up on Saturday night for former boxers,” Shembeda said. “We’d like to know their record and when they fought so we can acknowledge them during the matches.
“We haven’t had boxing around here in a long while, but there was a time when it was big in this area and we’d like to pay tribute to anybody who has a part in that history ... which is why we’re inviting those former area boxers to come to Olean High on Saturday night.”
THE BOUTS are the product of the efforts of OHS alumnus John Elmore, now a high-profile Buffalo attorney, who is still a sanctioned boxing judge.
Elmore arranged the card and is particularly high on one of the fighters, 17-year-old Bryce Stahlman from Salamanca’s KO Factory.
“Bryce won the NYS Golden Gloves Novice Light Heavyweight Division Championship last Friday evening at the Statler in Buffalo,” Elmore said. “It was his third fight, he has a record of two wins and one loss and I was one of the official judges of the fight.
“I hope that we can have a large and enthusiastic crowd (Saturday night). Teams are coming from Syracuse, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Geneva, St. Catherines, Ont. and Erie Pa. and the fights are going to be competitive and exciting.”
To which Shembeda added, “We want this to be a first-class event, something we can have every year and make those former boxers a part of it by acknowledging them and what they accomplished.”
He can be reached in advance by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 716-373-5812.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)