BOND OF BOXING

KNOXVILLE – Ever wonder what happens if you bit your tongue off?

Be thankful to just inquire about it. Shianne Gist has experienced the agonizing phenomenon and lived to tell about it.

“It just grew back,” said Gist, the 20 year old female boxer from East Liverpool. “I got caught with an uppercut at a fight a few months ago in Youngstown.

“There was a bunch of blood and I just spit it out.”

Then, she went back to fighting.

“It was painful,” she said, “but when you’re in the ring, your adrenaline is pumping so much you don’t really feel any pain. After, it really hurt,”

Gist, who trains with local legendary boxing guru Joe Board, is one of a handful of area youths who consistently visit Board’s gym at Kelly’s Old Skool in Knoxville. The kids will train five or six days a week.

“I love it here,” said 12 year old Hunter Weekly. “We’ve been coming for over a year and I’ve gotten so much better.”

Hunter, who comes with her father and younger brother, Caden, is also a girl.

“Some of my friends didn’t believe me when I told them I boxed,” she said. “But then they saw me fight and saw how much I enjoy it.

“I play other “boy” sports, too, like football and baseball.”

Caden started boxing as an outlet to lose weight. He also plays football and baseball, but admits boxing is now his favorite sport.

“I never thought I’d be this good, so far,” he said.

Hunter and Caden each won JO titles in April out of Pittsburgh at 113 and 114 pounds, respectively.

Gist was Pittsburgh’s Golden Gloves champion for the fifth time at 141 pounds. On April 26, she won a state title in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been boxing for over four years,” Gist said. “I started sparring and became really good at it. I stuck with it and I’m always getting better. I thought I could hold my own in my first few fights. I realized I could do it, then I started winning. It’s hard, but it kind of comes naturally. You have to be disciplined and work out hard.

“The life lessons I’ve learned through boxing have been amazing. I grew up extremely fast in a good way. I’m more mature now than when I started. I set goals for myself and I work as hard as I can to achieve them. I feel so healthy because of all the exercise and keeping myself on a healthy diet.

Gist has a record of 9-4, “just because it’s hard to schedule girl fights,” she said.

She is booked for a national tournament in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., which will be held in April. There, she hopes to meet the right people that could potentially help her reach the ultimate goal.

“I’d like to qualify for the Olympics in 2016,” Gist said. “I’m going to be going up against the best of the best. There’s going to be a lot of scouts and judges down there and I hope to catch their eye.”

Nobody, though, has aided her budding career as much as Board. Gist first met the Hammondville resident at an MMA fight.

“I was much more interested in MMA than boxing at the time,” Gist admits. “I started talking to Joe and got on board with him and have been boxing ever since.

“He’s amazing. He bought me my first pair of boxing gloves. Joe really is a second father to me. He taught me everything I needed to know. He’s always been beside me and supportive. He’s a great friend in and out of the ring.”

Board, 60, provides use of the gym, it’s top-notch equipment and lessons free of charge.

“I heard great things about him before I even started here,” said Cameron Ekas.

The 16 year old Burgettstown resident has been fighting for nearly two years and has been with Board for the past seven months.

After losing by knock out in the second round of a state title match in 2013, Ekas came back in 2014 and won the championship in April.

“It was all from muscle memory,” Ekas said. “That’s what Joe taught me. The nerves were up the whole time. I just went in, put in work and came out a champion.”

Ekas is 12-11, although he lost his first six matches to start his boxing career.

“After that sixth fight, I had a long talk with my dad about everything,” Ekas said. “I was thinking about quitting, but he said to see what happens the next fight. I won that one and I just started winning.

“I’m undefeated this year.”

Norman Rudder is still gearing up for his first fight; so far he’s just been sparring in the gym. The freshman at Wellsville High School enjoys his introduction to the sport.

“I love hitting people,” he said. “I’d like to improve on my technique.”

It won’t be hard to do that learning from Board.

“That man has taught me everything,” Rudder said. “He’s the greatest.”

Board is a source of inspiration for Gist. Currently, she’s a waitress who hopes to attend art school in Pittsburgh next fall. Boxing, however, will always be a part of her life.

“I’d love to be a trainer someday,” she said. “I help the kids with their workouts now. During their fights I’m there in the corner with Joe giving them advice and picking up on what he says to them.”

“I think I’m like the mom of the gym. We have fun, but when it’s time to work – we work. We’re like a family.”

A family that Board hopes to grow.

“I’m always willing to train new people,” he said. “You have to be willing to work and want to get better, but I want to help make that happen.”

As for his current boxing “family,” he couldn’t speak higher of the kids.

“You won’t hear a negative word coming out of their mouth – ever,” he said. “They work hard together and our always working in a positive manner.”

To stay positive after losing part of your tongue in battle? That’s as much a testament to Board’s boxers as anything.

“I’m always ready for the next fight,” Gist said.