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Lexington dentist fills a different role as charity boxing organizer

Fredrick Williams of ATO gets a clean hit in against Evan Fisher of Phi Kappa Psi during The Main Event hosted by Alpha Delta Pi and Sigma Chi  at the Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, November 7, 2013. Photo by Michael Reaves | Kentucky Kernel
Fredrick Williams of ATO gets a clean hit in against Evan Fisher of Phi Kappa Psi during The Main Event hosted by Alpha Delta Pi and Sigma Chi at the Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., on Thursday, November 7, 2013. Photo by Michael Reaves | Kentucky Kernel Kentucky Kernel

In his professional life, Larry Herman is a dentist. He graduated from the University of Michigan and went to dental school at the University of Kentucky.

But when Herman became a reading tutor at the Carnegie Center more than 20 years ago, he embarked on a path he never expected: He became a charity boxing organizer, and he now helps to raise tens of thousands of dollars a year in Kentucky college boxing tournaments.

Reading tutors were urged to let those they were helping pick the books they wanted to read. The man Herman was working with wanted to read a book about the rules to become a boxing official.

So tutor Herman and his student read the book together, over and over. And then, when the day came for the student to go to Cincinnati and take the class that lead to testing and certification, Herman drove him. He was afraid that his student — a retired boxer named Greg who at 29 read on the fourth-grade level — read so poorly that the driving directions might confuse him.

They sat through the class together, and when the time came to take the test, Herman thought, why not go ahead and take it himself?

He passed. So did Greg. Herman was soon recruited by Lexington Parks and Recreation to help with its boxing events.

Now Herman helps run UK's annual Main Event fundraising program, in which students box for charity. He also has helped run Main Event programs at Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky universities.

From September, when training begins, through November, when UK holds the Main Event, Herman works at his charitable job two to three hours a day. The Main Event raises money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities and UK's DanceBlue. In 2013, the event raised $55,000. More than 3,000 people attended.

Elliott Campbell, who graduated from UK in 2014, said working with the Main Event "developed my desire to get into public medicine and health."

He said Herman, 61, "coordinates literally everything. The amount of time he puts in every year, it's like thousands of hours." Sigma Chi fraternity and Alpha Delta Pi sorority host the UK event, and the UK Boxing Club oversees training.

Herman makes sure the event follows safety rules and state laws, he said. But really, he does much more.

"Our goal is to keep them safe and teach them the fundamentals of the science," Herman said.

Boxing is a science as well as a sport, involving manipulation of force, mass — for example, shifting your weight to increase mass — and body acceleration, Herman explained.

Will Tompkins, chairman of the UK's Sigma Chi chapter for the Main Event, said that for this year's event, the number of tickets sold might be even higher than 3,000, because of the addition of a women's match. About 50 boxers have signed up to participate.

Herman "really guides the event for Sigma Chi and Alpha Delta Pi, just in terms of sustaining it and running things," Tompkins said. "I think he just loves the fact that we raise so much money for such great causes."

Herman has the event's organization down to a science: He has calculated everything for what is needed to run a boxing tournament — right down to the special rehydration drink formula and how much time it takes to deliver and assemble the ring and its accoutrements.

The Main Event has a sense of humor about itself: Weigh-in for the boxers will be held the Thursday before the event at Hugh Jass burgers. A sorority dance competition punctuates the space between bouts.

David Latshaw, who is with the UK Boxing Club, said that for the boxers -- most of whom are fighting on behalf of, and being cheered on by, their fraternity brothers -- "The biggest problem they usually have is conditioning."

The other is learning to take a hit. Latshaw competed in the Main Event in his freshman and sophomore years; he is now a senior.

"The goal is to make it as entertaining and involve as many people as we can," Herman said. "It's a hell of a lot of money we get for charity."

How long will he continue his work as dentist/charity promoter?

"Every year I say is my last year," said Herman.

For now, he said, "I worry about this every night."

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