Jesus Rojas was quick and light on his feet, slender but strong.

Jesus Rojas was quick and light on his feet, slender but strong.

After a first round with no clear favorite, he sent a flurry of body blows that left his opponent, Logan Dauson of Columbus, exhausted and staggering. With the referee keeping Rojas at bay, Dauson held the ropes and spit out his mouth guard, a sure sign that the 114-pound amateur final at the Ohio State Fair was over.

"My strongest punch is the hook to the body," said Rojas, who got into boxing more than two years ago with his brother and now trains at Douglas Recreation Center in South Linden. "A lot to the body - that's how I finished the fight."

The promising young fighter was one of several locals who earned a top spot on the podium at the fair's 42nd-annual amateur boxing tournament. Fighters in different age groups and weight classes competed in final bouts Saturday afternoon at the Showplace Pavilion.

"The state fair is big," said Rojas, fresh off a silver medal at the Junior Olympics last month in Colorado. "It's important for an amateur record."

At its peak several decades ago, the Ohio State Fair hosted one of the premier amateur contests in the country, drawing fighters from as far as California. They'd box in a giant cattle barn with three rings. To win it all, you'd have to box two and three times a day.

Mike Tyson boxed at the Ohio fair. So did Sugar Ray Leonard. There were few tourneys like it.

State fair boxing has lost athletes to mixed martial arts and cash-strapped clubs to increased travel costs. Competition has changed slightly to put a greater focus on safety, with improved headgear and limits on fight frequency.

Still, the sport of kings has thrived in a safer, more inviting fashion at the annual festival, which runs daily through Sunday.

"We had teams from Philadelphia, Toledo, Indiana," assistant tournament director John Frissora said. "They came from all over the neighboring states. It was about 200 entries for the four-day tournament."

Many entrants were from clubs that dot the Buckeye State, largely because Ohio's boxing scene is strong, said Gene Campbell, president of the state chapter of USA Boxing. Registration with two main organizations makes it one of the top five in the nation, and Ohio has sent at least one boxer to the past four Olympics.

Winning gold at the fairgrounds remains a dream for many pounding it out in boxing gyms throughout Columbus and beyond.

"It was one of the best tournaments we've had in recent years," Frissora said. "It went really smooth and was well attended."

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