Strasburg man tries out Toughman competition

By Rick Kozlowski – rkozlowski@journal-news.net

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Amid a generous supply of testosterone and tattoos, John McInturff strolled into the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center on Friday night intent on marking off an item on his bucket list.

So the tattooed 39-year-old from Strasburg boxed in Parson’s Ford Toughman.

“I’m the oldest one here,” McInturff pronounced proudly before readying himself for a bout that came about midway through the program.

He also indicated he really hadn’t trained for the 23rd annual event.

“No, I have seven kids,” McInturff said. “That’s my training.”

Children ranging in age from 7 to 23 for the man turning 40 during the summer, he figured kept him in shape for his fight in the middleweight division. Not to mention a couple of grandkids, too.

McInturff needed about 40 seconds to erase boxing from his bucket list.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kyle Chelmey of Mercersburg, Pa., and McInturff flailed away at each other to start, but Chelmey connected with McInturff’s nose with two bloodying shots before the minute-long first round ended. The second one left a sizeable gash on his nose.

“Early on, I got a couple of square shots,” McInturff said. “The first one he got me, I felt it dripping [blood]. That might’ve been a distraction.

“He caught me with another good one. The ref was counting. I stopped it. I told him, ‘I did what I came to do — be a part of it.'”

Despite his quick exit, McInturff had no regrets.

“It was great getting here to be a part of this and do something I always wanted to do.”

McInturff wasn’t the only 30-something competing at the two-night event. Some two dozen amateur boxers older than 30 were registered to compete. Many more were in their late teens and early 20s.

Only about half of the 150 registered boxers took to the ring for one match on opening night. The time each of them spent in the ring varied.

Martinsburg’s Robert Gue, who, at 38, gave himself the ring name “Old Man,” took care of earning a technical knockout in the first round.

He knocked down Martinsburg’s Dustin Lemaster right at the first bell, then floored Lemaster soon after for the victory in Gue’s fourth appearance in the local event.

“I just got lucky,” Gue said. “I was just hoping not to get hurt.”

Gue lost to the overall runner-up four years ago, yet he said that bout might’ve been his best one.

“I didn’t win, but I was happy with my performance,” he said of four years ago.

He’ll get another shot today as the four weight classes for men are whittled down, leading to championship bouts. Boxers will need to win win matches today to claim championships in all likelihood.

Thirty-four-year-old Jeff Habicht of Hedgesville, W.Va., also will compete today after a split-decision victory over 33-year-old Pedro Lopez of Sterling. The outcome from the judges drew some boos and hisses from the packed house.

Both 30-somethings were boxing in Toughman for the first time.

“I just felt like getting my brains beat out,” Habicht quipped.

The pair lasted through the three rounds. Their faces wore heavy doses of animus and vitriol as they swung away.

“Talk about sportsmanship,” Habict said. “We wanted to beat each other’s brains out and still came out as friends.”

Lopez said he began training for Toughman three months ago, boxing as kind of motivation to show what’s possible to a youth group with which he works in Washington.

Lopez took his bout as a learning experience.

“I got to work on my stability,” Lopez said. “I know what I did wrong. I got to keep my feet planted. I was too much of a jumpy fighter.”

Beside McInturff, there was a second 39-year-old in Martinsburg’s Jason Delauter, whose bout was the final of 42 scheduled for the night.

Action today begins at 7:30 p.m. Midway through, there will be a four-round professional bout.