The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 8, 2010

Thomas following father’s footsteps

Oak Hill native ready for Hard Knocks event

Like father, like son.

That’s what boxer Bobby Thomas Jr. will aim for when he faces Justin Howes for the West Virginia State Cruiserweight Championship Saturday, a title his father Bobby Thomas Sr. held from1986-88.

The Thomas Jr.-Howes fight highlights the card as part of the second Hard Knocks Fighting Championship today and Saturday at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. Both nights’ activity will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Thomas Jr., 29, of Oak Hill said he still recalls his father’s reign as cruiserweight champ.

“I remember when he won the title; I remember when he lost the title,” Thomas Jr. said.

From a young age, Thomas Jr. spent time watching his father in the ring.

“I grew up in the gym,” Thomas Jr. said. “I was in there ever since I’ve been walking pretty much. He’s always helped me. He never really wanted me to fight. He didn’t push me to fight. That’s just something I wanted to do.”

Thomas Jr., 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, won two toughman competitions after turning 18 and has established a 5-1 record with four knockouts after turning professional in 2007.

Through it all, his father has been there to guide his career.

Thomas Sr. fought as a left-handed boxer, but he had different intentions for his son.

“He turned me right-handed really,” Thomas Jr. said. “I throw baseball with my left hand. I write right-handed. I kick with my right foot. It’s all backwards really. I can box either way, too.”

Many boxers refuse to fight a lefty and that cost Thomas Sr. a fight with George Foreman, when he was beginning his first comeback in the late ’80s, Thomas Jr. said.

Jerry Thomas, the fight’s promoter and president of West Virginia Sports Promotions Inc., said besides the differences of left and right, the father-son combo has many resemblances in the ring.

“Style wise and size wise, they’re very, very close, meaning Bob Sr., when he fought, he was about the same height and weight, had similar skills,” Thomas said. “They remind me a lot, their styles, very similar. Bobby Jr. of course has learned a lot being around his father and being around the gym.

“I actually remember seeing Bobby Jr. at the age of about 3 in the boxing gym watching his dad work out. I remember looking over one day and he was hitting the heavy bag or trying to hit the heavy bag. Of course it was a little bit too tall for him. He’s really been around it a long time. It’s as they say: It’s in his blood.”

Besides fighting for family honor and the title, Thomas Jr. is trying to defeat Howes (12-0, 10 KO), who represents Thomas Jr.’s lone loss of his professional career.

“I shouldn’t have even took the fight,” Thomas Jr. said of the fight that led to his loss. “My hand was already messed up.

“It felt like it broke off in my glove in the second round and I didn’t come back out in the third round.”

That was last year. Now, Thomas Jr. said he’s in the best shape of his life and he has two goals for Saturday: “To redeem my loss and (win) the West Virginia Cruiserweight title.”

Thomas Jr. and Howes, 6-3, 200 pounds, will face off in a 10-round bout Saturday.

Advance ticket sales are encouraged, but tickets remain on sale at the convention center. To charge tickets by phone, call 1-888-695-0888. Ticket prices are $15 general admission, $20 reserved and $30 for gold ringside. In addition to the ticket price, a $2/ticket facility fee will be charged.

— E-mail: nbrockman@ register-herald.com

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