The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

October 31, 2013

WVSP kicks off year No. 35 with today’s Toughman event

Jerry Thomas didn’t set out to become the face of the Toughman Contest in West Virginia. It just kind of happened that way.

“When they first called me about it, I wasn’t all that crazy about it,” Thomas said.

Thomas may not have initially been wild about the idea, but the Mountain State was.

Tonight, Thomas’ West Virginia Sports Promotions will kick off its 35th year when The Original Toughman Contest invades the State Fair Events Center in Fairlea.

Thomas can’t believe it’s been that long.

“The beginning of the 35th season... it’s very interesting and hard to believe,” Thomas said with a laugh. “Every once in a while, we’ll start counting how many fighters we’ve had. Last year, we did a rough count and it’s somewhere around 30,000 fighters.”

Tonight, many area fighters will look to add their names to a list that includes Tommy Small, Bobby Thomas,  Scott Morris and Christy Martin, as those who got their start fighting in The Toughman.

“We started recruiting at the State Fair in August and had 20 entries in one day and a couple ring girls,” Thomas said.

Thomas expects more than 100 fighters and 21 ring girls tonight, in an event that is sure to crown a new champion in each of the weight divisions.

“The heavyweight runner-up, Joe Hill, is back,” Thomas added. “He’s from Rock Creek and is 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds. Last year’s champ has won two titles, so he’s moved on. It’s wide open this year.”

There will be plenty of new faces and new names, and, as Thomas said, “That’s what The Toughman is all about.”

Two faces that will appear in the ring that aren’t unfamiliar to fight fans in southern West Virginia will be former Toughman winners, Butch and Ashley McNeely. The father-son duo will serve as referees for the event.

“Butch and Ashley are both former fighters,” Thomas explained. “Butch was the Toughman champion 30 years ago.”

It may not be the last McNeely that Thomas gets in the ring.

Butch’s daughter, Hope, a Bluefield State student, is working toward her pro debut — something Thomas hopes to have at the Beckley Toughman Contest early next year.

“I’ve talked to Butch and Hope a little about that,” he said. “It will be a subject we talk about this weekend. It would be neat to do that as a featured attraction in Beckley.”

Thomas wasn’t sure whom he would bring in as an opponent for McNeely, but he’s very aware of one possible opponent — last year’s champion in Beckley, Marissa Long.

“The key there is the weight difference,” Thomas explained. “Marissa is probably 20 pounds heavier than Hope, and I think it would be tough for her to cut the weight since she’s still young and growing, so it’s hard to tell.”

The jam-packed event begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

“We have all kinds of things going on,” Thomas said. “We have a lot more going on than ever. This may be our biggest in Greenbrier County, which we are calling the Greenbrier Valley Championship.”

Thomas expects a performance from Greenbrier East High School’s “Contemporary Ensemble,” a rock band created in 2008 for advanced guitar students, as well as an appearance from the Greenbrier Roller Vixens.

Tickets for the event are on sale at The State Fair office, Stop-In stores in Lewisburg and Ronceverte, and at the door, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are $15 for general admission and $20 for reserved ringside seats.

— E-mail: jrollins and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.

Text Only
Latest Sports
  • 072414 WV Open.jpg Familiarity with Cobb helps Hess take lead

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Kenny Hess is comfortable playing the Cobb Course at Glade Springs Resort.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Golf and motocross are Jude’s passions

    Motocross and golf have very little in common.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • How to discover and love Major League Soccer

    When I began my soccer fandom following a missions trip to Brazil in 2000, I didn’t know what my next step was. I knew I loved watching the game, but there weren’t a lot of options for seeing it in the U.S. I knew of Major League Soccer — mostly from my friend and current FC Dallas beat writer Drew Epperley — but it was hard to find.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Tiger Woods finished near bottom last weekend at Royal Liverpool, drawing out his drought of major tournament wins. Despite the disappointing showing, Woods' return to form remains a matter of when, not if.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holgorsen to appear on ESPN special

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen will appear Wednesday on ESPN’s annual mid-summer college football coaches’ “car wash” — in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 brand Bradshaw or the field?

    If a betting window were set up on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs for the 81st West Virginia Open Championship, which begins at 8 a.m. this morning, the most popular wager would probably be David Bradshaw against the field.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holgorsen: WVU getting comfortable in new league

    Dana Holgorsen remembers the glory days of West Virginia University football — the ones that included conference championships and BCS bowl wins. In fact, he was part of one of those, leading the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in 2011.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 justice Home sweet home away from home

    When Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was handed a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Sunday, his eyes lit up like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree on a cold December night.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072314 miners Miners take series with Paints

    The way the West Virginia Miners see it, they don’t have the luxury of planning for tomorrow.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Saints Training Camp