MANCHESTER — When it comes time to invite boxers to participate in the annual Fight to Educate pro-Am charity event, Bobby Stephen doesn’t have to ask Danny O’Connor more than once.
“Danny made his professional debut with us five years ago,” said Stephen, chairman of the New Hampshire Boxing and Wrestling Commission, which is sanctioning the event. “He calls Manchester his second home, and he always wants to help us raise money for three wonderful charities. He’s also a terrific boxer who’s ready for a title shot.”
With a 22-1 overall record including seven KO’s, O’Connor, 28, is hoping to run his record to 5-0 in Manchester when he headlines the FTE card Thursday in a scheduled eight-round bout against welterweight challenger Raul Tovar (11-7-1, 4 KOs) at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the event, which features three professional and three amateur bouts, beginning at 8 p.m.
O’Connor, a southpaw out of Framingham, Mass., has recorded four knockouts in Fight to Educate bouts.
A 2008 U.S. Olympic team alternate. O’Connor has won his last eight fights, a streak that started at 2010 the Fight to Educate. His success is due in part to having two-time world title challenger Ronnie Shields as his head trainer.
O’Connor faces a tough test against the 24-year-old Tovar, who has been stopped only once in 19 pro fights.
Undefeated welterweight Chris Gilbert of Windsor, Vt., (9-0, 7 KOs) returns to Manchester for the third straight year. He will meet Anthony Chase (11-1, 4 KOs) of Providence in an eight-round match. “Gilbert is a solid fighter who will out-punch his opponent,” said Stephen. “Chase will be a good test for Gilbert.”West Forks, Maine, light welterweight Brandon Berry (2-0, 2 KOs), who fought in last year’s FTE as an amateur, meets Jesus Javier Cintron (1-3-2) of Springfield, Mass., in a four-round bout.
This year’s amateur matches include Manchester’s Joel Felix (4-1), a 2011 New England Golden Gloves heavyweight champion, and two other regional Golden Gloves champs: 2013 winner Dominic Lessier of Lowell, Mass. (22-2), and three-time champ Josh Bickford of Mount Holly, Vt.
Felix, 20, began boxing as a 13-year-old in the Manchester Police Athletic League program.
During the past 11 years, the Fight To Educate has raised more than $500,000 in donations for New Hampshire nonprofits. Proceeds this year will benefit Manchester’s SEE Science Center, the Bobby Stephen Fund for Education and the New Horizons for New Hampshire food pantry, soup kitchen and shelter.
“We just presented 22 scholarships in Concord this year,” Stephen said of his education fund. “The money went to kids who can’t afford to go to college on their own. Through generous donations, ticket sales from the general public and money raised from an auction organized by Stephen Singer, we’re able to provide youngsters a chance to further their education. We also couldn’t run this event without our state commissioner, Art Nolin.
”Boxing legends planning to attend this year’s event and sign autographs include two-time world light welterweight champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Aaron Pryor, former World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and former welterweight and light welterweight world champion James “Buddy” McGirt.
Tickets, priced at $50 and $25 (general admission) are available at the Verizon Wireless Arena box office and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Sponsorships and VIP seating for tables of eight ($1,000) at a 5:30 p.m. black-tie dinner may be purchased through Singer at 669-4100.