It will be his first fight in the ring, but if you were at the big, raucous hip hop party in Dayton a few years back where he was working security, you know it will not the first time he’s used his fists.
“A huge fight broke out and it was just me and another guy working the floor,” Jake Norman recalled before a recent training session at Drake’s Downtown Gym. “I ended up tackled by four or five guys and was fighting off my back.
“There were at least 25 people going at it. Lying there, I watched as my partner literally got carried away. That’s probably the only time I said, ‘Oh (expletive)! This may not end up well.’
“I did manage to get up and I made my way to the other guy and we were able to get behind a bar and finally (the security company guys) came in.”
Saturday night he won’t be facing a brawling mob, but neither will there be a bar to crawl behind for cover.
Norman, a 28-year-old heavyweight from Enon, is making his boxing debut. He faces Dwayne McNeal of Cincinnati in the towering main event of Knockout, the 10-bout amateur show at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
It will be the last sporting event – unless you count a one-day circus on March 19 – at the historic arena before it is demolished as part of a Fairgrounds redevelopment program by the University of Dayton and Premier Health.
No bout at Saturday’s charity event – which is promoted by Drake’s Gym, begins at 7:30 and benefits Boonshoft Museum of Discovery – will feature two taller opponents.
Norman is 6-foot 6.
McNeal is 6-8. Now a personal fitness instructor in Cincinnati, he once played basketball at Western Hills High School and Hampton University.
Norman has had an interesting athletic career, as well. After playing various sports at Miamisburg High School, he said he took up Mixed Martial Arts and had “two fights in the cage.”
He eventually turned to powerlifting under the tutelage of Jimmie Pacifico, whose dad, Larry, was a barbell legend, winning nine straight IPF World Powerlifting Championships in the 1970s.
Beefing up to around 300 pounds from his current 245, Norman set some records himself and said his best efforts at the 275-pound weight class, were 950 pounds in the squat, 605 on the bench and 900 pounds in dead lift.
He also played rugby before taking up boxing a couple of years ago and has served as a training partner for Warren Roberds, the MMA fighter and boxer from Enon.
While he had the size, the reach and the strength, Norman had to learn better defense when he first took up the sport.
He says he has.
Body is a canvas
He was raised by his grandparents and says “I have a lot of old school, traditional morals and values.”
He talks about his grandparents, his wife Sara and their two kids, a 14-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter.
He works at AFC Tool Company and though he dreams of one day being a pro boxer, he also is practical.
“I’m at a point where I have a lot of stuff to do in my life,” he said. “My wife and kids have things they want to do and I figure I can only be selfish for so long.
“My wife had to put up with a lot when I was powerlifting. I was working 50 hours a week and then driving to Columbus three or four times a week (to train). Plus I was going to school part time for my job.”
But while he does espouse an old-school outlook on some matters of family and commitment, he also has a look and some tales that don’t exactly say traditonal.
He body is a canvas for tattoos. He has Thor’s hammer across his neck and a Norse key across his Adam’s apple. The 10 commandments are on his right arm. His family crest with two griffons cover his chest.
He has DECIMATE inked across his fingers.
And on one arm is the Johnny Cash lyric: “I walk the line.”
His wife has the other part “Because you’re mine.”
Norman laughed: “I always say Johnny Cash is an acquired taste. If you don’t like him you better acquire some taste.”
When he was still in school at Miamisburg he got a job working the door at Hammerjax nightclub, an often problematic spot in downtown Dayton.
He was working at the now-closed Wallabys in Beavercreek the night “a dude opened fire in the middle of a crowd in the parking lot.” He worked several other late night clubs in the area and especially at Cheeks Gentleman’s Club in West Carrolton. That’s where he met his wife, who was a bartender.
Cheeks is his sponsoring his ring debut Saturday night.
A storied history
The Coliseum may not have featured strippers, but it was home to a lot of other physical efforts people wanted to see.
The old arena hosted Golden Gloves boxing matches, pro wrestling, high school, college and pro basketball and even circus acrobats.
Bing Davis, the nationally-acclaimed Dayton artist and educator was once a much-trumpeted basketball player here and often played at the coliseum, first with his Wilbur Wright High School team and later after a career at DePauw University, with fabled AAU teams like Jones Mortuaries and Inland Manufacturing.
Playing at the same time was local hoops icon Roger Brown, exiled from the University of Dayton, only to a become box office attraction at the Coliseum, before becoming an ABA star and National Basketball Hall of fame inductee.
Davis said the Coliseum was “like a shrine’ to players his age around here.
The old wood court made history in December of 1948 when the Dayton Rens started playing there. They were a member of the National Basketball League, which a year later would pair with a rival league and form the NBA.
The Rens were the first all- black team to play in a white league in America and helped pave the way to the integration of the NBA
Two years after the Rens played a season in Dayton, local promoter Elwood Parsons – with the sponsorship of the Metropolitan Clothing store – formed a pro team that included future NBA players Nathaniel Clifton and Hank DeZonie and Harlem Globetrotter great Duke Cumberland.
The Coliseum was home to rare women’s industrial league teams like the Bosch Radio Girls and the Purol Pep Girls, who had stars like Carmelita “Topsy” Rumpke and Ruby Wise.
And the Coliseum may be best known as the former home of Dayton Flyers basketball.
UD played there from 1923 to 1950 and over the years hosted name opponents like Xavier, Louisville, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Loyola, Ohio University and Toledo, as crowds of nearly 3,000 often crammed into a small arena dubbed by some “the sardine can.”
Some of the Flyers stars of final 1949-50 team at the Coliseum were UD Hall of Famers Monk Meinke, Chuck Grigsby and Junior Norris.
Before the lights are turned out on the old place, Jake Norman will get his shot on the sporting stage there, too.
Whether he joins the lore of the other guys who starred there – people such as wrestlers Gorgeous George and Bruno Sanmartino, Monk Meinke, Sweetwater Clifton, Bing Davis and Roger Brown – depends on if he lives up to his billing.
It depends on if he can DECIMATE.
When: Saturday, March 10
Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds Coliseum
Schedule: 10 bouts; doors open at 6:30 p.m.; first bout at 7:30 p.m.
Benefitting: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Promoter: Drake’s Downtown Gym