By Meg Thunell
The Pleasant Grove City Council entertained a proposal Tuesday that would allow high school students to spend a day duking it out in the ring.
Jake Spainhower, a 20-year-old from Alpine, met with the council to discuss the possibility of renting the Pleasant Grove rodeo grounds for his second annual High School Brawler’s Boxing Tournament.
Surprisingly, especially in light of the recent Provo Fight Club controversy, the council seemed interested.
Spainhower “has some hoops to jump through,” said City Attorney Tina Petersen. “He needs to show us he has appropriate safety measures in place, and we have to assess crowd control … but if we can resolve those issues, we will look at it.”
So why is the High School Brawler’s Boxing Tournament garnering support from city officials when the Provo Fight Club drew nothing but criticism and tabloid TV shows?
The difference, says Spainhower’s partner Brody Wilson, 20, of Alpine, is the way the events are organized.
“We are safe,” Wilson said.
All fighters who participate in the tournament box in a ring and are required to wear headgear, mouth guards and gloves. Participants must also sign several waivers and have a legal guardian’s permission to fight if they are under 18.
All fights are also professionally refereed by Dr. David Pierce, a chiropractor and kickboxing instructor from Alpine. Pierce told the council that last year he only had to break up one fight.
“We try to keep the animosity down,” he said.
In addition to the safety differences between the Provo Fight Club and Spainhower’s tournament, the goal between the two is vastly different.
Spainhower, who got in trouble in high school for fighting, is trying to help high-school fighters become friends.
“Kids box. They fight. I just want to control it,” he said.
To find participants for the fights, Spainhower and Wilson go around to each of the 12 high schools in Utah County. They meet with students and find out who the best fighters are at each school.
They contact these “tough guys” and line up the fights. Before the actual day of the tournament, all the fighters are taken out to lunch and introduced to each other.
“It becomes more of a sport,” said Wilson.
Spainhower said his ultimate goal is to stop fighting in school. To emphasize his point, he will not invite students from schools if he hears there has been a fight during school.
Wilson said there is a real need for activities like this for high school students.
“I had a bad name for fighting, but if there had been a league or something, it would have helped me a ton,” he said.
Not all the students who fight in the tournament are “trouble makers,” however.
Spencer Pierce, 17, of Alpine, is an advanced-placement student with a third degree black belt in Bushi-Ban karate who, according to Spainhower, keeps out of trouble.
“I come just for fun,” Pierce said. “It’s the competition. It’s cool if you win.”
The High School Brawler’s Boxing Tournament is tentatively scheduled for May 19, pending further action by the City Council.
Mayor Edward Sanderson said he wants to consider the proposal again on May 16.