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