Like most boxers, Dallis Johnson is not short on confidence.
“I think I’m just made to box,” Johnson said. “This is my sport because I’m just good at it.”
But like many young fighters who train with the Charlotte Boxing Academy, Johnson is mostly untested. He’s only 12 years old and has fought just one official fight, which ended in a draw, on July 26.
That’s why an event like the Battle of the Carolinas, an exhibition on Sept. 13 hosted by the academy, is important to an up-and-comer like Johnson. He wants to take advantage of every opportunity he can to compete and build his resume.
Johnson and 15-20 other amateur boxers from North Carolina will face competition from South Carolina fighters in a grudge match of neighboring states. It is one of two events the CBA will host at the Revolution Park Sports Academy in two days.
On Sept. 12, the academy will host the second annual First Responders Charity Boxing Tournament in which members of local police and fire departments strap on the gloves and headgear to box for charity.
Charlotte Boxing Academy head coach Al Simpson is coordinating both events. A member of the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame, Simpson is also president of the North Carolina Boxing Association and an advocate of amateur boxing.
Simpson says that some of the Battle of the Carolinas boxers will be competing for the first time.
“They won’t admit it but they’re going to be scared,” Simpson said. “They’ll be nervous all the way through. … I’ve always asked some of the kids if they’ve ever had a (physical) altercation at home with a brother or sister. Once you’re able to have gotten hit, then you kind of know what to expect.”
There are nearly 30 boxing clubs in North Carolina sanctioned by USA Boxing, but scheduling fights is no easy task.
There are several considerations that have to match between opponents. Simpson asked all of the state’s boxing organizations to submit a list of names of boxers who would be interested in competing this weekend, along with their statistics: weight class, age and experience.
Simpson offered that list to South Carolina boxing leaders so their boxing clubs could see if their fighters matched up. Ultimately, Eloise Joseph, the chief of officials in North Carolina for USA Boxing and a Charlotte resident, has the say on which boxers will be matched.
The North Carolina list includes male and female fighters ranging in age from 11 to 35 years old. They include fighters from the junior division (11-17-year-olds), and novice and open divisions, the two adult divisions split by level of experience.
Simpson submitted 17 names from the Charlotte Boxing Academy. The 11-13-year-olds who get matched will fight three 90-second rounds. The rest of the fighters will go for three two-minute rounds.
“My biggest thing is to make them safe and make sure they are not going to be overmatched,” said Simpson. “If I’m starting out with a kid with zero bouts, I want him to be matched against someone with zero or one bout.”
Dallis Johnson, a sixth-grader at Ranson Middle School, is such a boxer. Johnson trained several years ago but took a leave of absence until two months ago.
Eleven-year-old Jammal Campbell took up the sport a year and a half ago because his father used to box. He has seven fights and five wins under his belt.
“I’m looking forward to fighting other opponents,” Campbell said. “I hope I can win.”
The First Responders event will pit members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte Fire Department, and the state highway patrol against one another. Last year, the CFD finished in first place and was awarded $500 to donate to charity.
“The competition itself is for honoring the memory of 9/11 with the first responders,” Simpson said. “The event is for them but I put a little twist on it, making it a community event and giving proceeds to charity.”