Make Redwood Great Again: Redwood’s little known boxing tradition

Michael Benz

Rule number one of Fight Club: don’t talk about Fight Club. Maybe that rule is why one of Redwood’s best-kept secrets hasn’t seen the light of day for decades.

Redwood alumnus Chad Kreuter, class of ‘82,  had great success as a three-sport varsity athlete. However, his fondest memory from the gym wasn’t the many basketball games he played in. Instead, it was when he participated in Fight Night his senior year against Mark Hummel.

Fight Night was a school-sponsored event which stemmed from the boxing class taught by coach Bob Troppmann. Fight Night was simple, two kids, three rounds, in the Redwood gym. One night out of the year, a full boxing ring would be installed on one side of the gym, according to Kreuter. 

An excerpt from a previous Bark issue.
An excerpt from a previous Bark issue.

“Fight Night was the greatest thing they ever had at Redwood, the greatest,” said Steve Compagno, a former Redwood student and current boys’ varsity basketball coach.

The event was always packed. One 1982 Bark story stated that they expected more than 1,000 kids at the event, nearly half of the student body at that time.

“For all the guys that were fighting there was a huge build up to it because everybody challenged each other and there was a little jawing back and forth and showmanship with everybody,” Kreuter said.

The night was meant to emulate a real “fight night” like professional ones on TV.

“The ring was there, and they had music. They played music for everyone when they walked in, it was fun. It was really fun,” Kreuter said.

Kreuter chalked it up as one of the most interesting experiences in his life, right up there with his 16 years in the MLB, catching Nolan Ryan’s 5000th strikeout and playing in the World Championships in Cuba.

“It taught a lot of guys about humility, it taught a lot about inner strength, to get in there and fight and get back up after you were knocked down stuff like that. Nowadays, [Fight Night] would never be allowed, obviously, but as a guy who went through it and did it, I would recommend it because back then it was kind of part of becoming a man almost,” Kreuter said.

Additionally, Kreuter said that the Fight Night was not as much about beating the opponent, but instead bringing to light the true characters of the athletes.

“You showed you had the courage to get in the ring first of all, and the courage to get in wasn’t as much as the courage to fight in front of all these people and you were fighting a friend, so it wasn’t like you were fighting someone you hated,” Kreuter said. “You’re going at it not to hurt him but to win and try to survive.”

Kreuter also took away a physical lesson from the experience.

“I was sick as a dog afterwards, I didn’t train hard enough for it, I wasn’t ready for how hot the gym was. You got in the gym and it was probably 90 degrees because of all the people. Those three rounds, we didn’t hold back. We slugged it out for three rounds,” Kreuter said. “I remember being physically sick afterwards because I was so dehydrated. And I know that taught me I need to train better. Not in just boxing, I never boxed again after that, but to train harder and train better and outwork everybody for the rest of my life, and that was a big lesson in that point in time.”

According to varsity baseball head coach and Redwood alumnus Mike Firenzi, Fight Night would not be brought back to Redwood due to health risks.

“They would never bring it back for the insurance purposes and all that. I do think boxing teaches a lot about discipline both mental and physical. I think it does teach a lot, but I don’t see it ever happening again, just the day and age we live in,” Firenzi said.  

EXCITING BLOW - Sophomore Scott Meyers hits David Sommeville, during boxing night.
EXCITING BLOW – Sophomore Scott Meyers hits David Sommeville, during boxing night.

But Fight Night was not the only thing that was different about Redwood in the 1980s. Alumni also felt that as a whole, the school vibe was different.

“I would say the school spirit [was the best part about Redwood.] We all went to all the sporting events, and I say we all, not just the athletes, the kids in the drama department, the math club, everybody went to the basketball and football games. Whether the team was winning or losing it didn’t really matter, there was just a lot of school spirit,” Firenzi said. “Everybody had Redwood gear on all the time, and there was a lot more school pride; I don’t know what you attribute that to. Back then you would kind of hold your chest out a little bit with your Redwood shirt on at parties and around town.”

Kreuter attributes today’s comparative lack of school spirit to a key part of the high school experience being absent.

“There aren’t any Friday Night football games in Marin besides San Rafael,” he said. “I think they miss that here, that’s a part of the high school experience that a lot of kids miss here. Whether you’re a student-athlete or a fan it’s a lot of fun to go to.”