When Tim VanNewhouse was honorably discharged from the Air Force in April 2009, he was faced with the same dilemma that many veterans confront: What do I do now to earn a living?
His passion had always been boxing and, at one time, he was in the process of building a successful career in the ring, having fought 86 amateur fights and winning two Golden Gloves championships along the way before turning pro in 2007 and scoring a second-round knockout in his first professional fight, which was held at the then Plain Dealer Pavilion in the Flats.
“I was weighing different offers to continue my pro career,” says the 25-year-old VanNewhouse, a resident of Lakewood, “but I concluded that none of them provided the security I needed, especially with my wife being pregnant. Plus, I really didn’t want to keep getting hit in the head.”
That’s when the graduate of Lincoln-West High decided to join the Air Force, where he served as a medic at the Air Force Academy Hospital. But upon returning to Cleveland, he found himself frantically looking for work, without success, for nine months, before reluctantly going to the Veterans Administration (VA) for help.
“I was nervous going there and asking for assistance,” he says. “I didn’t know if I were doing the right thing. I was scared to ask for help, just like a lot of people, including vets, are.”
At that time, VanNewhouse was in need of job placement, educational goals and housing assistance. The VA was able to help him with housing expenses and, via the GI Bill, he was enrolled in Cleveland State’s health services program where, as of this May, he has accumulated enough credit hours to be classified as a junior.
But rather than taking classes this summer and with the moral support of friends and family, VanNewhouse decided to pursue his dream of staying involved in the boxing world by becoming a promoter. Encouraged by his mentor and former trainer Joseph Delguyd, VanNewhouse formed Stallion Productions and has scheduled its first event for Sat 8/13 at the Jacobs Pavilion in the Flats.
“I realize that this is quite a risk and that promoting boxing is not the easiest way to make money,” he says, adding that he is putting his life savings into this endeavor. “But giving up on your dream can be risky, too. Since I returned from the service, I’ve stayed active in the game by helping train young fighters at the Strong Style gym in Independence. Now I think I’m ready to make the move into promotion.”
One of the fighters VanNewhouse has been working with at the Strong Style gym is featherweight Mark (Too Sharp) Davis, who has compiled a 15-0 record and will be headlining the August 13 card. And in a creative move meant to take advantage of the emerging popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA), VanNewhouse has added undefeated local MMA superstar Cody Garbrandt to the card in a straight boxing match.
VanNewhouse has heard the stories of how Cleveland was one of the nation’s true hotspots of boxing in an earlier era and believes the region can once again become a successful venue for the sport he loves so much.
“The talent is here and so are a lot of people with great experience and knowledge,” he says. “It’s a matter of bringing all of that together, showcasing it the right way and selling it to the community.”
In his efforts to make the upcoming event a success, VanNewhouse has already obtained the support of the locally based Hoodstrong Clothing Company, the United States Marine Corps, and the North American Allied Fight Series’ (NAAFS) main sponsor John P. Lennon.
Additionally, VanNewhouse is actively working with the VA to connect with various veterans’ groups in order to get them involved with this project and ultimately help some vets who may be in need.
“The VA really turned my life around by opening the door for me to chase my dream of becoming a boxing promoter,” he says. “Now I’m committed to giving something back by donating a portion of the gate receipts to help homeless veterans.”
Larry Durstin is an independent journalist who has covered politics and sports for a variety of publications and websites over the past 20 years. He was the founding editor of the Cleveland Tab and an associate editor at the Cleveland Free Times. Durstin has won 12 Ohio Excellence in Journalism awards, including six first places in six different writing categories. LarryDurstinATyahoo.com