Jim Patton started promoting boxing in Anchorage 25 years ago. After years as an amateur, club, and professional fighter, Jim broke his hand in a big fight and could no longer compete. Looking for another way to participate in Alaska boxing, he launched Thursday Night at the Fights, a weekly series of local bouts contested at the Egan Convention Center in downtown Anchorage each winter.
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After a year and a half on his own, Patton hooked up with his former trainer, Jerry Miller, a one-time Golden Gloves champion out of Montana. Miller trains many of the young fighters, who have their first matches in this annual 26-week series of fights. Tickets run from $15 to $70 for premier ringside seats. Up to nearly 1,000 fans show up each week.
Thursday Night at the Fights is a club boxing event, judged on professional rules, with a weekly card from October through April. There are seven fights every Thursday -- two mixed martial arts matches and five boxing bouts. The range of fighting skill among these men ranges from first-timers to boxers with hundreds of matches under their belts.
Along the way, the fight series has come to mean something more for the community of men involved. Fighting offers these young, aggressive men a positive and controlled outlet for their adrenaline. The personal stories of many of the fighters are inspiring, whether they box to stay off the streets, out of prison, or to become role models in their communities.