Fighting out of the bluffs of Winona, two young boxing prospects traveled to St. Paul on February 25 to display their skills in the boxing ring. Marvin Labre, fighting in the 147-pound bracket, and Justus Pomeroy, fighting at 155, gave their best efforts but ultimately fell short of getting the win at the “Brawl in St. Paul.”
Lion’s Den Boxing is an amateur gym located above Team Howell Fitness on the west end of Winona. It is also the training ground for Justus Pomeroy, a Golden Gloves fighter who has been boxing since he was 12 years old. He has had a series of victories in his career, coached by his grandfather Bill Pomeroy and assistant coach Kendrick Carter.
In 2015, Pomeroy beat U.S. Air Force Boxing Team member Tavarus Roberts, winning the Light Welterweight division in the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Tournament. Now, at 22 years old, Justus says he looks to establish a good year for himself by keeping a constant presence in the ring.
“Hopefully, we make it to that,” Pomeroy said, referencing the three-part Upper Midwest tournament that the “Brawl in St. Paul” is widely seen as a tune-up fight in comparison.
Coach Carter was looking past this fight to a larger picture, saying, “Hopefully, we get some more national tournaments for Justus, and try to prep him for the bigger stage.”
Labre, a human resources worker at Winona Health, boxed years ago during his college days in La Crosse. Now 24 years old, the “Brawl in St. Paul” marked his return to the competitive amateur boxing scene.
“This is Marvin’s first time back being in the ring for a little while, so it’s just about getting his feet wet again,” Carter said. “Getting in there, and roughing up the guy, not too much brawling, because he’s a technician, so I really want him to fight smart, use his jab, use the angles that we’ve been working on, and just stay busy in there.”
The team was set on bringing home two victories, and the game plan stuck to solid ground practiced in the gym.
Marvin was the third of 11 fights scheduled in the day’s tournament. “Fighting Chance Boxing Club,” in North Minneapolis, Minnesota, trained his opponent, Morgan McDonald.
The first round bell rang, and Labre moved in to set up a jab and establish his range. McDonald, being the shorter fighter, ducked underneath the jabs before delivering an overhand right which connected on target. From this point, the two closed into extreme close range, and Labre retaliated with a body shot combination that got his opponent to move back. Labre threw more jabs and a solid body shot to corner his adversary, causing McDonald to move in for the clinch. The referee reset the fight, breaking it up and moving the two toward opposite corners. After some brief maneuvering around the ring, Labre made a big swing that MacDonald ducked. This was followed by another retreat and clinch, which was again broken up. Macdonald stood his ground as Labre zeroed in on him, and the two exchanged a flurry of punches up until the bell signaled the end of the first round. The fighting got fiercer as the match went on, with Labre being more the aggressor and Macdonald working to dodge or counter. By the closing seconds of the third round, wild punches were thrown at very close range, as each tried to rack up the points by the end of the round. The fight ended with the two embracing in a hug of mutual sportsmanship.
Labre did not get the win. However, he said, “It’s a good learning experience, and something I want to try to work more on. I kept throwing more jabs, instead of mixing up my combinations. During sparring, I felt comfortable throwing hooks but I didn’t throw any during that time.”
Pomeroy was the second to last fight of the tournament, against Wayne Luckett from the “Believers Boxing Club” in Forest Lake, Minnesota. The fight began with both combatants moving in with straight lefts, in an attempt to gain better positioning over the other. After a brief hold by Luckett, the fighters continued to circle each other, picking apart the opponent’s defensive posture with feints and punches from multiple directions. Justus kept up the pace, moving Luckett back and landing a four-punch combination at the halfway point in the round. Luckett attempted to regain the initiative, but Justus dodged a flurry of his strikes as the crowd reacted to the quick action playing out in front of them. The bell rang while Justus had his head clenched under Luckett’s arm.
Later rounds saw the fight escalate in both tenacity and speed. Justus used lateral movement to set up angles he could exploit, creating openings that allowed him to strike without committing to a fight in close quarters. Ultimately, the judges gave the fight to his opponent.
Justus, however, was not discouraged. He acknowledged that next time he needs to “Throw more combos, keep my weight down, and more in and out work, less banging.”
Both fighters have continued to train, ready to hone their skills and improve their technique in time for the next fight.