Amateur boxing recently returned to NEPA, attracting a big crowd and whetting the public's appetite for the ages-old "Sweet Science."
Last Saturday evening, more than 500 fans turned out at the Wallenpaupack Area High School gym despite wintry conditions and frigid temperatures.
Kids and adults, men and women paid between $20 and $35 to witness the next generation of Wayne and Pike County fighters.
"Boxing by the Lake II" delivered a full card of amateur boxing ... 15 bouts featuring everything from inexperienced 80-pounders right up through battle-tested heavyweights.
The event was once again hosted by Lake Region Fitness, headquartered at the Hawley Silk Mill.
General Manager David Vazquez and Assistant Manager Gina Lecce were among those who put in countless hours preparing for this stellar night.
Plans are already afoot for "Boxing by the Lake III," which in all likelihood will take place this summer right back at Paupack.
In the Ring
USA Boxing provided all the logistical support for Saturday's card, which got underway at 8:15 p.m.
Carbondale native and professional recording artist Abby Millon performed a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Moments later, fans settled into their seats for the first bout.
Alex Monroe of Fastlane Boxing Club in Philadelphia got things off to a solid start. The 13-year-old 80-pounder hammered out a unanimous decision over Badlandz Boxing Club's Giovanni Rosa.
Next up was the always-smiling and ever-confident Chris Leonardi.
Lake Region's first boxer of the evening, Leonardi did exactly what he said he'd do before the fight: He won by knockout.
Actually, the official result was a second round TKO of Das Fitness fighter Brandon Bravo.
Page 2 of 4 - "The fight went the way I thought it would," a smiling Chris said just moments after exiting the ring with his belt.
"I liked that I was using combinations on him and that I didn't stop when he was in trouble. I said that I'd win by knockout and I did."
Destrianne Snow was up next in an interesting battle of two novice fighters.
Her opponent, Paupack seventh grade social studies teacher Christina Scatton, held a pronounced reach and height advantage.
However, Snow was able to repeatedly get inside of Scatton's jabs and wreak havoc with hooks and uppercuts.
To her credit, Scatton compensated in the second round; but, Snow landed several big overhand rights that drew blood and brought a roar from the crowd.
This bout did go the distance (three rounds), but Snow earned a decision.
"It was a lot more intense than I thought it would be," Destrianne said. "Tina was a tough opponent. She did a good job fending me off and I'm just happy that I came out with the win."
After Justus Velez of Tri City Boxing Club (NJ) won on points over Badlandz' Anthony Torres at 132 lbs., two more Lake Region Fitness fighters made their way into the ring.
Samantha Rodriguez and Alexa Aspinall squared off in a crowd-pleaser that featured plenty of action.
Rodriguez battered her opponent into two standing 8-counts before finally posting a TKO midway through the second round.
Jose Cerrano of Fastlane was up next and followed with a TKO of his own against Lake Region's Alden Barker.
Fighters from the Fastlane stable continued their run when Ryshine Collins outlasted Rafez Marzan of the Irish Boxing Club at 132 lbs.
Page 3 of 4 - The final bout before a 15-minute intermission saw Bruce Nwarti of New York City win a tussle between unattached boxers.
Nwarti bullied his way to a decision over Allentown's Miguel Valez at 136.
Four of the night's final five bouts featured fighters from Lake Region Fitness.
Ryan Marcinkevich of the Irish Boxing Clunb set the stage for a fantastic finish by winning on points over Tri City's Dominic Goode.
Moments later, popular local boxer and MMA aficionado Taylor McLay strode to the ring for his bout at 152 lbs.
McLay traded punches with Maurice Banks of the Tobyhanna Boxing Club in the opening round, but then took control in the second.
"I was really tentative in the first round," Taylor said.
"He hit me with a couple of really hard rights in the first round and that kind of got me going. I knew I was in a fight with lots of family and friends watching, so I tried to turn it up a notch."
McLay did just that.
The aggressive southpaw dictated pace the rest of the way. McLay used upper cuts and a barrage of left hooks to batter Banks.
This bout went all three rounds, but McLay won an unanimous ... and very popular ... decision.
"Overall, I think I won on cardio," Taylor said. "I guess the bottom line is that he's bleeding a lot more than me. I'm going home with a belt and a big old smile on my face."
Michael Freethy of Lake Region put up a valiant effort at 176, but suffered a second round TKO at the hands of Tobyhanna's Isaac Jones (2:47).
Page 4 of 4 - A pair of local fighters went at it in the evening's penultimate bout.
Randy Sans went toe-to-toe with Lake Region team mate Eric Vazquez and eventually came away with a decision at heavyweight.
Aaron Onyon of the IBC brought down the curtain on Boxing by the Lake II with a second round TKO of Lake Region's Paul Vazquez.