Boxing was once a local knockout!
It was 75 years ago that Minneota veterinarian Dr. William W. Merritt decided to gauge the interest of boys that might want to be involved in a Golden Gloves Boxing Club.
To Merritt's surprise, several boys showed joined.
"I remember my dad talking about boxing when he was younger," said Randy Fox, a 1974 Minneota graduate now living in Marshall. "He really seemed to enjoy that sport."
Lawrence Fox was a featherweight (126 pounds) boxer for Minneota and won a district title and advanced to the state boxing club championships. Although the boxing club only lasted from 1946-48, Fox boxed all three years.
For winning the district featherweight crown in 1946, Fox was awarded a gold trinket that looked like a boxing glove.
As a tribute to his late father, Randy took the trinket, along with a booklet he made out of all the clippings about the boxing club that appeared in the Mascot and the individual article about his father winning the district title and placed them all in a shadow box.
Lawrence Fox passed away in 2018.
The boxing club practiced and held bouts in the St. Edward's School gymnasium.
"They would draw a lot of people to the fights," said Randy, reading from one of the newspaper clippings. "They would draw fighters from all over. They didn't just fight in Minneota either. They would travel all over the state."
In the club's opening matches in early January of 1946, three young Minneota boxers traveled to Slayton and each had their arm raised in victory by the referee at the end of their three-round bouts. Those three on the card were Lawrence Fox, Lawrence Buysse and James Flood.
In the 1946 district bouts, Minneota entered six of its Golden Gloves boxers. District winners advanced to the Northwest Golden Gloves tournament in Minneapolis, and those winners advanced to the nationals. Minneota entrants included John Stienessen in flyweight, Fox in featherweight, Flood in lightweight, Maurice Locy in welterweight, Buysse in middleweight, and Renil VanOverbeke in light heavyweight.
"Dad used to talk about how good Renil was," said Randy Fox. "He said he was one of the best boxers he had ever seen."
Fox and VanOverbeke were the lone two Minneota boxers to win district titles and advance to the Northwest Golden Gloves tournament. Fox won a three-round (two minutes each round) decision over Walter LaFieniere of Flandreau, SD in his district title bout, while VanOverbeke knocked out Leroy Ree of Flandreau.
In the Feb. 1, 1946 Mascot, an article told that VanOverbeke "used a TNT-laden left hand to polish off his opponent in one minute and 30 seconds of the second round. With more experience, VanOverbeke will be one of the best light heavyweights in the state," it read.
The article also noted that Fox "jabbed his opponent continuously in the first round and was never in trouble. In the second round, however, Fox was in plenty of trouble, and at one time was badly hurt and it seemed to me that the bell was his blessing. Beginning in the third round, Fox was like a wild man and threw so many punches from then on it was his fight."
At the district tournament, Doc Merritt was presented with an award by the Slayton Chamber of Commerce for the Coach Most Interested in his Fighters.
Fox and VanOverbeke were both defeated in the Northwest tournament two weeks later.
After that, the Catholic Order of Foresters of St. Edward's Parish supported and sponsored the boxing club. They ordered complete official ring equipment for the boxers to use. A committee of 10 men were appointed to assist in the formation of the club and to promote matches. Doc Merritt and Thomas Dickerson were the coaches. The organization was then became known as the Minneota C.O.F. Boxing Club.
Minneota staged its first fight card on April 12, 1946 at St. Edward's Hall, securing some of the top amateur boxers in this part of the country. Boxers from Minneota, Marshall, Pipestone, Slayton, Flandreau and Brookings were on the card. Minneota fighters included: Lawrence Fox, Renil VanOverbeke, Donald Hamerlinck, Lawrence Buysse, Frank Janssen, Ronald DeSutter and Maurice Locy. There were 13 fights on the card.
The meet was well publicized with sale of the reserved seats selling for 75 cents and general admission for 40 cents. In just a short time, the event was sold out to over 600 seats.
Joe Fox, Hamerlinck, DeSutter and Janssen all won their matches. Lawrence Fox and Buysse lost close decisions. VanOverbeke and Locy were slated to fight, but were unable to due to a previous injury.
In October of 1946, because of the success of the boxing club, additional equipment was purchased, including boxing gloves, mouth guards, headgear, striking bags, sweatshirts and pants.
In December of that year, the C.O.F. Boxing Club staged a Novice Boxing Tournament and had a registration form printed in the Mascot. One hundred youths registered in the various weight classes for the tournament to be held on Jan. 3 and 4.
Interest in boxing slowly waned in 1947 and eventually the club was shut down in 1948.
"I would be interested to know what happened to all the boxing equipment," said Randy Fox. "I wonder what they did with the boxing ring and all the gloves and things?"
Now only the memories remain.