My Town Monday: Fight Club – in Dayton!

This Saturday night, 16 area business people, arts and charitable organization representatives, Dayton Daily News staffers, and other volunteers will participate in Dayton’s own fight club – for charity. These fighters and their audience of 2500 (if it sells out) will get to take a little trip back in time, too (figuratively, of course) as they take Memorial Hall back to its glory days, when it was the place to go to see the fights.

Inspired by the venue’s history, as well as the sport of boxing’s storied past in the area, Dayton History is teaming up with Drake’s Downtown Gym to put on Dayton Knockout VIP Fight Night, with the proceeds to benefit Dayton History and the AIDS Resource Center of Ohio. It looks like it will be a fun time!

Gene Tunney & Jack Dempsey at Memorial Hall - note how the audience is all sitting in folding chairs, on the floor

It’s probably because I’m not a big sports fan that I had no idea of the significant part Dayton played in football history until I began looking for interesting things to blog about for My Town Monday. Similarly, I also had no idea boxing was a big draw in decades past. But starting in the late nineteenth century, boxing clubs started popping up all over town, and before long, some had gained a national reputation. One of these was Dayton Gym Club, which produced several Golden Gloves teams and was voted one of the best fight clubs in the U.S. in the 1950s.

Dayton’s Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1910. The “Memorial” part refers to veterans of the Civil War and Spanish-American War, whom the citizens wanted to honor. It’s on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. I’ve attended many concerts and plays there, but never a sporting event. However, it was a popular destination for boxing until the 1940s, when raised seating was installed. The last public performance held there was Bill Cosby, in 2001. It used to be the home of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and other performing arts organization, who have since moved on to the Schuster Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2003. Memorial Hall closed that year, and reopened in 2010, when the county placed it under the management of Dayton History.

Memorial Hall in the early 20th century

Tickets are only $15, or $25 for a package deal that includes entertainment by local band Funky G and the Groove Machine in the lounge downstairs plus three drink tickets. Local entertainment magazine Dayton Most Metro is giving away five pairs of tickets too – if you’re local and want to win ’em, hop on over to their Facebook page.

Have you ever attended an amateur sporting event like this? I normally don’t care for boxing, but this sounds entertaining. Got any interesting sports history from your area to share?

Additional Resources:

Dayton Most Metro, “Boxing in Dayton, From Past History to Present ‘Knockout‘” by J.T. Ryder
The Dayton Daily News, “Taking a Punch for Charitable Causes” by Amelia Robinson 

Photos via Dayton Most Metro and Dayton History

9 Responses to \

  1. Boxing intrigues me, mostly because I would never want to have to get in the ring and punch someone. When I was a kid I remember chasing some boy who knocked my little sister down–I got him down to the ground, but ended up just holding him there because I just didn’t want to put my fist in his face.

  2. LOL Coleen! Love your story. Being the small, wimpy kid, I did everything I could to avoid stuff like that! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Barrie! There hasn’t been a post for a while, so I’m glad to see it’s still kickin’! So for anyone coming in now, check out Barrie’s fun post about the San Diego Zoo and other fun blogs at the My Town Monday blog

  4. Dayton seems to have a pretty vivid sports history! I’ve never attended an amateur sporting event like this because I’m just not into boxing. However, yesterday I did blog about prize fighter Jack Johnson:).

  5. Maria, I think I might have run across that name while researching this article! I learn something each time I write one of these. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I still don’t understand why men want to punch each other in the face till one can’t stand up. LOL But a lot of people pay to see it. It’s pretty cool learning the history of where you are from or where you live. It would have been neat to see Bill Cosby.

  7. Jennette, that is an awesome building. I love the old architecture and the personality that they had. But sorry to say, I have never been to a fight. It has never been my personal thing, but wow what a following it has had over the years. And that town of yours does have a lot of history. Amazing Jennette. It’s kinda cool for you to be learning this about your own town, let alone pass it along to us. Can’t wait for next Monday. 🙂

  8. Debra, I am totally with you! My husband loves that stuff. Me, I prefer the “fake” fighting on WWE! Definitely saw some good concerts at Memorial Hall.

    Karen, it’s even more amazing inside. Statuary all over the walls, and big plaques with all the names of veterans from our county. Thanks for stopping by!