When Frank Eppolito opened his gym at 4703 Central Avenue Pike in September of 2012, he just wanted to provide a place for kids to learn about the sport of boxing.
But after his boxers took a liking to the ring, he noticed that there weren’t a great deal of options if they wanted to get amateur fights. “We don’t do a lot of shows in Knoxville and a lot of my kids can’t travel,” Eppolito explains. “And a lot of the shows that were in place were not ideal…instead of complaining about it, I decided to start my own.”
So, on May 19th of this year, he did just that with the first incarnation of Eppolito’s Fight Night. “It was standing room only and everyone seemed to love it,“ he says of his first event.
His promotion ideology is simple: Keep things uncomplicated and fair, and include everyone who wants to participate inside the ring. “All food items are a dollar,” he says. “If the red corner wins, the red corner wins, if the blue corner wins, the blue corner wins. If my boxers lose, then they lose. I don’t want them to have an unfair advantage because it’s my show. And they don’t need to get credit for something that they don’t deserve.”
The second Fight Night will occur this Saturday, July 22nd at Emerald Youth Foundation in Happy Holler and it promises even more excitement than the first event.
There are seven kids bouts on the card as well as a Masters fight (which is a designation given to boxers 40 years in age and older) and everything in between. “I want to make sure we include everyone. All fighters have to pay dues to USA boxing, so they should have a chance to fight in the ring.”
Local fighters will fill much of the bill, but a handful of out-of-town boxers will join them on the docket. None of them has a bigger name in the sport than Evan Holyfield, son of four-time World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield.
Holyfield is fighting out of “Sugar” Bert Wells’ camp in Atlanta. Wells has two other fighters in the mix on Saturday as well. While he can’t ensure the presence of the former champ, Eppolito says that Evander has been in attendance for his son’s bouts in the past and with Knoxville’s geographical relevance to the Holyfield’s home in Atlanta, odds are good that ‘The Real Deal’ could be on Central Street on Saturday night. “He’s great. He walks in and talks to folks and is very friendly. The last show we were at, not only Holyfield showed up, but Roy Jones Jr. was also there,” explains Eppolito.
There’s also a charitable side to Eppolito’s boxing events. Through a partnership with the Scarecrow Foundation, a different food charity receives proceeds from each event. This event will feature Beardsley Farm.
“I want to teach life lessons,” he says. “We always involve a food pantry, so that we can let our young boxers and the community know that there’s more to it than just boxing. Once you understand that there’s more to the world than you, that’s it. Once you learn that you’re eating and other people are not, that’s crazy. Fighting hunger through boxing is a fabulous metaphor.“
When talking about a recent field trip of sorts, Eppolito gushes about the opportunity to help in the community. “Thirty kids showed up at Beardsley farm to learn about urban farming. It’s exciting for us to be able to do that. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to participate in a program like that and have our kids be able to take that in.”
Saturday’s event will host 21 bouts that range from ages eight to 57. Tickets are $10 and the first bell rings at 6:00PM.