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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2018:03:26 13:35:26

Nick Nalaschi won ‘boxer of the night.’

Nick Nalaschi has been playing sports for most of his young life. But it wasn’t until the first time he entered a boxing ring that he found his true calling.

The Old Forge Junior-Senior High School sophomore is quickly making strides in the local boxing world. A couple weeks ago, the 16-year-old pugilist won his debut fight at a Pennsylvania Golden Gloves tournament held at Genetti Manor in Dickson City.

Fighting as a 179-pound cruiserweight in a non-tournament bout, Nalaschi stopped his opponent, Nathan Tanner, with a technical knockout (TKO) just a minute and 23 seconds into the bout.

“And there were three standing eight counts, so technically we only fought for 59 seconds,” said Nalaschi. “It was my first big knockout, and hopefully the first of many more to come.”

Nalaschi had a large contingent of family and friends cheering for him in the stands that night, including his parents, Dino and Lori Nalaschi.

That support was crucial, he said, but the key for him in the end was “drowning everything out and just doing what I needed to do.”

Nalaschi ended up getting the “boxer of the night” award, an impressive feat given there were close to 20 bouts all together.

“I cried when I got that award,” he said. “They thought I was the best in the building that night. I don’t know how I pulled that off.”

Nalaschi has been a boxing fan since early childhood, thanks to the influence of his father, a former Keystone State Games winner. However, it wasn’t until a little more than a year ago that he began to take the sport seriously.

He started by hitting the heavy bag in his basement, then eventually his father took him to Weston Field in North Scranton, where well-known local boxing trainer Gene Reed runs his Irish Boxing Club. There, Nalaschi spars with guys who are at least seven, eight years older than him. Besides Reed, his mentors include pro boxer Andre “Da Heat” Hemphill.

“I’ve sparred with seven pros already,” Nalaschi said. “It’s a sport that’s not for everybody. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in, get punched in the face a few times and that’s it for them.”

He, on the other hand, was completely hooked by the brutal beauty of the sport. Weighing in around 260 pounds when he started, he’s worked hard to slim down through a dedicated regimen of weight training and healthy, protein-rich eating.

A former lineman, he decided to give up football to completely devote himself to boxing.

“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to live in the gym and live and die by boxing. … Either you’re in or you’re out,” said Nalaschi, who works part-time as a dishwasher at Lucca Restaurant and Catering in Taylor.

Over time, Nalaschi has developed an aggressive, in-your-face style reminiscent of his all-time favorite boxer, “Iron” Mike Tyson. In fact, people have started to call him “Iron Nick.”

“I have really short arms. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have a lot of power,” Nalaschi said.

Right now, Nalaschi is busy bulking up to 195 pounds for his next fight, a light heavyweight bout scheduled for May 5 in Berwick. With any luck, “I’ll get another knockout then,” he said.

Given his power, Nalaschi believes he’s ideally suited to the heavyweight class. And, he sees himself going pro upon turning 18.

“I think I can have a career in this. It’s something I would do for free, so might as well get paid for it,” he said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do than be a professional boxer. I just want to go as far as I can go with it.”

Meet Nick Nalaschi Age: 16

Hometown: Old Forge

School: Sophomore at Old Forge Junior-Senior High School

Family: Parents, Dino and Lori; siblings, Dean and Jenna

Favorite school subjects: History and English

Favorite boxer: Mike Tyson