A ministry outreach from Central Heights Baptist Church in Globe had young fighters from across Gila County going toe to toe at the Tonto Apache gym Friday night. The Toughman competition, organizers say, offers teens structure, discipline and Bible studies related to the struggles many of them face.
Chris Crucilla is the youth director at Central Heights and his local boxing and martial arts events have been attracting hundreds of spectators in southern Gila County.
"We're not really promoting fighting because really it's discipline we focus on," he said.
The group meets regularly in Globe and wants to branch the ministry out to include Payson.
"We end each event with a Bible study which is focused on the things that are going on in their lives," Crucilla said. Participants are required to attend the Bible study and the discussion time which follows in order to remain involved.
The group, he said, doesn't promote fighting just for the sake of fighting.
"If any of our participants get into a fight which they couldn't find a way to walk away from, they are immediately banned from participation for the next month," Crucilla said. "We're trying to make a positive difference in their lives."
Crucilla said the Toughman began in July, and boasts 25 to 30 regular participants and a host of fans. The match held in Payson brought out about 50 people to watch as eight competitors, including five from Payson, participated in scheduled three 2-minute round bouts. Although all the fighters were required to wear protective headgear and gloves, more than one nose was bloodied before the action stopped.
Ellis Heath from Globe took home the tournament championship. His most impressive win took place with less than one minute into the first round, when a right cross to the jaw caused opponent Manuel Alvarez to admit he'd had enough.
Another match is planned for the future, and organizers expect the event to catch on in Payson as it has in Globe.
"We hope to hold another event at the gym in about four weeks, but we still need to work out the scheduling," Crucilla said.
For more information about the Toughman competitions, call Crucilla at (520) 425-6784 or the Central Heights Baptist Church in Globe at (520) 425-5303.