Norwin senior puts best foot forward in boxing ring
Jason Slack felt nervous as he stepped into the ring for his first career boxing match two weeks ago during the Golden Gloves tournament.
As soon as the bell rang, however, those nerves melted away.
Slack, a senior at Norwin High School, won his first career fight by decision and expects to compete in the next round of the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves tournament Saturday in Punxsutawney.
“(There were) a lot of feelings going in,” Slack said. “Everyone's quiet there, and you don't know what to expect. But as soon as you get in the ring, it's like nothing else matters. It's a different feeling. You've never felt something like that.”
The Golden Gloves is a statewide amateur boxing tournament for youths and adults. The tournament features several rounds of bouts held throughout the state, culminating in a spring championship match. This year's championship will take place April 26 in Chester.
Slack, who competes in the “sub-novice” division at 152 pounds, fought his first bout at The Royal Place restaurant in the South Hills.
Formerly a football player at Norwin, Slack decided to take up boxing last summer as something different to try. He began taking lessons at Olympus Fitness in North Versailles, training two to three times a week with coaches Chet Crudo and Adam Hartman.
“The first class, I came in and I thought I did all right,” Slack said. “But there were a lot of guys that were pretty good. It was shocking seeing how good some of those guys were. As I got on, feeling how much closer I got to them, how I could compete with them, was really good. It felt really nice.”
Crudo and Hartman each said Slack made tremendous growth from when he first started, especially recently.
“Up until two months ago, I was still questioning whether or not I was going to be all right with him fighting in the tournament,” Hartman said. “Two months ago, he started to pick it up a little bit and actually within the past four weeks, he's made very big gains. (He) started to take it a little more seriously, I think, and I've seen big improvements in the past four weeks.
“What started happening is every other day I could see little things he's doing better and better.”
Slack came out strong in his first fight, against a boxer from Third Street Gym in Penn Hills.
“He was very poised, very calm,” Crudo said. “Being that it was his first fight, it just didn't seem like it. He was very confident. If he was nervous, he didn't show it. He showed a lot of confidence in the ring, and it just shined through. We were very proud of him.”
Crudo and Hartman said they thought Slack had the potential to win the Golden Gloves if he kept fighting the way he did in his first bout.
“I'm just going to do the best I can,” Slack said. “If I do (win), then that's great. But if I don't, I'll give it my best shot.”
Slack said he always thought about trying boxing when he was younger. Although he's unsure about his future in the sport, he knows he'd like to continue training if possible.
“In the summers, I'll definitely come back and work and try to find a place up where I go to school and continue to train,” he said. “After that, I hope to still continue what I'm doing.”