Saturday night at the 41st annual Southern West Virginia Budweiser “Original” Toughman Contest inside the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, the rubber met the road.
It was a time for redemption for past runner-ups, but a tough night for local fighters.
Fighting in his first Toughman event, former Woodrow Wilson track and cross country standout, Chris Barbera made his way to the middleweight championship bout with two wins earlier in the night.
However in the championship bout, Barbera got knocked out late in the final round with a solid overhand right from Brett “Break Stuff” Bumar from Latrobe, Pa.
“I took runner-up twice before and unfortunately both bouts went to the judges hands,” Bumar said. “You let it go to the judges, it’s out of your hands. I told myself I was going for broke because I was not taking another runner-up finish. I was getting that jacket.”
In his three previous wins, Barbera had controlled the fights. Bumar knew he could not let that happen in the championship bout.
“I knew when he found his rhythm and his range that he controlled the fight, so I never wanted to let him get comfortable,” Bumar said. “I bullied him. I hate bullies in life, but I am a bully in the ring and that was my ring. I wanted to take his space and fight my fight. I wasn’t fighting to lose, I was fighting to win.”
The fight appeared to be headed to a judge’s decision, but with just under 10 seconds left in the bout, Bumar found his mark.
“The overhand right is my bread and butter punch. I throw it very hard and it’s my favorite punch,” Bumar said. “I told myself that when there was 10 seconds left, I was throwing it until the bell rings. It was a walk-off home run hit.”
Barbera had wowed the crowd in his first fight of the night when he battered Zach Mills before a nasty right hook dropped Mills in his tracks. He then easily took care of Johnnie Lloyd in his second bout, winning by TKO in round one to advance to the championship bout.
“I just fought a really good fighter. He is the champ and he beat me. Take nothing away from me,” Barbera said. “I was fighting my third fight and he just wore me down.”
After two runner-up finishes, Trevor Bell from Marietta, Ohio defeated crowd favorite Devon Steele for the welterweight title.
“I knew (Devon) was the hometown hero and I just wanted to hear the crowd boo. That is what motivated me,” Bell said. “He was tying me up a lot. To combat it I was just working him down low and up top. I stood him up a few times with my right hand. I am not sure he had fought anybody that could hit as hard as I could.”
Marcus McGuire from Summers County and Beckley’s Aaron Hairston both dropped unanimous decisions.
Robert Nicewander defeated McGuire for the cruiserweight title, while Eli “Mr. Nice Guy” Kerr bested Hairston in the heavyweight division.
George Brown defeated Kevin Hicks for the second time by split decision to take the lightweight title.
Hicks had upset the 2019 lightweight champion, Shawn Blevins, in the opening bout Saturday to win his way into the championship round.
Brown, who had finished runner-up in Beckley back in 2019, used a solid left hook to neutralize Hicks.
“I picked up on the fact that (Hicks) was left-handed and you have to box him differently,” Brown said. “It is a big advantage to be a lefty. I always throw that hook after a right hand, especially if I miss with the right, but he definitely had a chin. He was tough.”
Cassie Mitchell won the only women’s title contested at this year’s event. Mitchell defeated Jocelyn Brown by unanimous decision.
The 2022 West Virginia Toughman event for Beckley will be held in its normal time period on the first two days in April.
Kevin Hicks d. Shawn Blevins, unanimous decision
George Brown d. Zach Taylor, TKO
George Brown d. Kevin Hicks, split decision
Devon Steele d. Jade Batross, unanimous decision
Trevore Bell d. River Simms, unanimous decision
Trevore Bell d. Devon Steele, split decision
Chris Barbera d. Zach Mills, KO
Brett Bumar d. Sammy Pullens, split decision
Chris Barbera d. Johnnie Lloyd, TKO
Brett Bumar d. Chris Barbera, knockout
Marcus McGuire d. Joe Hunt, unanimous decision
Robert Nicewander d. Marcus McGuire, uanimous decision
Aaron Hairston d. Nathan Glenn, TKO
Eli Kerr d. James Toler, TKO
Eli Kerr d. Aaron Hairston, unanimous decision
Cassie Mitchell d. Jocelyn Brown