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Johnny Spell Follows Father’s Footsteps into Boxing Ring

With a champion boxer father, going to the gym every day was life as a kid for Johnny Spell III and his nine siblings; but he was the only one to follow his father’s footsteps into the boxing ring to compete.

“It’s made us closer,” said the 21-year-old boxer named after his father and coach, Johnny Sr. The elder competed in amateur and pro tournaments into his 40’s, while training his son since the boy was five years old.

“I miss fighting. I want to do it one more time,” said Johnny Sr. One of his dreams is to see his and his son’s name on the same fight card at a tournament. Now 56, Johnny Sr. runs North Side Fitness Gym, and Train To Go Cleaning Service with Johnny III.

“My blood pressure went sky high when he first started,” said Johnny Sr. about his son who first fought at age 14, “But he always stood up to the test.”

On April 1, the two headed to 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills for Johnny III to fight at the Western Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championship. Johnny III had won in 2015. He defeated the night’s opponent, Danny Bodish, in a fight last year. The favorite was clear.

The crowd was packed in tight around the ring. Shouts, cheers and coaches’ demands filled the feverish room. Spell and Bodish faced off. Gloves blurred and feet danced around the ropes. At the end the Spells were shocked by the judges’ decision to award Bodish with the win.

Though Johnny III won’t be going to Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves, he will continue on to compete in the Ringside Tournament and the U.S. Invitationals this year. One thing is for certain: win or lose, Johnny Sr. will be in his corner.

Johnny Spell Sr. shaves his son’s face in the locker room before his boxing match at the Western Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championships on April 1, 2017 at the 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills. Fighters are not allowed to have facial hair because it can lead to cuts near the eyes. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny Sr. coaches his son through warm ups in the locker room before his fight at the Western Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championships. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny Sr. wraps the hands of his son, Johnny III, before he competes at the Western Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championships. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny III spars at the North Side Fitness Gym on March 29, 2017 in Fineview. Johnny Sr. opened the gym in 2010. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny Sr. coaches his son through conditioning exercises at North Side Fitness Gym. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Danny Bodish, left, of Steel City Boxing, flinches as Johnny III delivers a blow to the face at the Western PA Golden Gloves Championships. Brodish won by decision. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny Sr. throws a few punches in the locker room before his son’s match at the Western PA Golden Gloves Championship, wishing he was the one about to go into the ring. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Johnny Spell III, second from right, looks in astonishment to his father and coach as the boxing official declares Spell’s opponent, Danny Bodish, winner at the Western Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championships. He will still compete in the Ringside Tournament and U.S. Invitationals. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)