Although West Virginia didn’t have many native sons or daughters competing in the 2014 USA Boxing Junior National Championships this week at the Charleston Civic Center, a Kentucky fighter represented well for a local gym here in the Mountain State.
Payton Childers, a Louisa, Ky., native who fights out of Huntington’s 304 Boxing Academy, took home the gold medal in the 176-plus-pound weight class Saturday. She defeated Detroit’s Christal Berry by technical knockout just 1:25 into the first round, her first and only fight of the tournament.
“I put in about three hours of work a day, four days a week,” Childers said. “So this feels pretty amazing.”
Childers was able to successfully defend her 2013 Junior Olympic title in front of friends and family, a big bonus for a fighter who doesn’t get many local bouts.
“She has a great support system,” said Payton’s mother, Kim Childers. “She doesn’t get many fights so when she does, they always try to make it.”
Childers first took to boxing after going to a local Toughman contest. Despite her success inside the ring, her toughest battle was just being allowed to climb inside it.
“It took me about a year to let her start boxing,” said her mother. “I took her to her first Golden Gloves and she convinced me.”
Since then, the younger Childers has taken the local and national boxing scene by storm, racking up a 10-0 record with nine TKOs and numerous titles. Childers began her run in 2010, when she won the Tri-States Golden Gloves championship and from there won the 2010 Louisville Legends Invitational, the 2013 West Virginia State Junior Olympic Championship, the 2013 Hometown Heroes Championship and the 2013 Ringside World Championship.
“She trains hard and she hits as hard as a guy does,” said her coach, Noah Kirk. “She spars with other men, so she doesn’t train with other girls.”
Kirk started coaching in Chesapeake, Ohio, after ending his boxing career in 2002. When his classes started to get too big, he moved his business.
“We put a little ring inside a classroom of an old school and we outgrew it,” he said. “We had about 30 amateurs and 10 pros, so we moved to a warehouse in Huntington.”
Childers makes the 45-minute trip to Huntington to train multiple times a week.
“There’s everyone from eight-year-olds to grown men who are pro boxers,” she said. “It’s like one big family.”
Other notable results from Saturday’s championship bouts included Detroit’s Jayda Thomas successfully defending her 2013 championship in the 119-pound female division and Leon Lawson III of Flint, Mich., taking home his first national championship in the 125-pound male division. Charleston-born fighter Joey “Bazooka Joe” Veazey (145) won the silver medal, falling by unanimous decision to Detroit’s Janelson Figueroa.