ADAH, Pa. (KDKA) — In the basement of an old abandoned church, in a tiny old coal mining town in southwest Pennsylvania trains what could be the next champion of the world.
Tommy Karpency is the pride of Adah, Pa., and on February 25 in Cardiff, Wales, he’ll fight for the WBO Light Heavyweight Championship of the world.
“Anxious,” Karpency admits. “It’s like playing in the Super Bowl, so it doesn’t get any bigger.”
Karpency, at 21-2 in his career, will face undefeated World Champ Nathan Cleverly, a Welshman in his home country. Karpency is a heavy underdog.
“He’s an undefeated world champion,” Karpency says. “25-and-0. (He’s got) good skills, fast, great shape. Anybody at this level is great. Top 10, top 5, you’re talking about great fighters. They come to win.”
Not to mention, Cleverly will be fighting in front of a friendly home crowd. Most would see that as an advantage for the champ. The challenger disagrees.
“See, I believe it’s an advantage for me,” Karpency says, “because the pressure’s on him.”
Plus, Karpency has a secret weapon in his corner. In a page right out of “Rocky,” Karpency trains in modest, yet inspiring surroundings.
“This is as small town as it gets,” Karpency says, “so a lot of my techniques and training have to be modified to fit that. We do a lot of old school things.”
Beginning with working out in an old church. Tommy and his family bought it after it closed down several years back with the help of Tommy’s grandfather.
“He was probably my biggest fan,” Karpency says. “He’s the reason I have this gym right now.”
It’s the same church his father Tom was baptized in, served as an altar boy in, and now father and son, Tom and Tommy, spend their days, hour after hour, training for the biggest thing to happen to Adah…ever.
“I always dream about winning a world title,” Karpency says. “I think the Steelers have kind of a Super Bowl parade, but the parade around here would be a lot shorter and a lot less intense, but it’s great to have the support that I have.”
It’s the kind of support big city dwellers may never know. There are only about 150 residents of Adah, and as soon as word hit we were coming to interview Tommy, much of the town showed up with him.
“Small town atmosphere,” Karpency says. “Everybody knows everybody, everybody gets along. You can leave your doors unlocked at night, so it’s great.”
What would be even better is if Tommy can write a happy ending to this fairy tale because sometimes dreams do come true, even in places like Adah.
“All you do is wake up every day and all you think about is the fight and you always think about different scenarios that may happen, but the main thing is you think to yourself you’re gonna win the fight.”