“I’m going to call you Ben ‘Teach ‘em a lesson’ Schlater,” a promoter joked with Ben Schlater as he prepared for his Dec. 22 match.
Schlater, of Lewisburg, is a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Vinton Elementary School. But he spends his evenings training for — and competing in — professional boxing matches.
By splitting his time between his teaching career, his family and an hour-long commute to his coach’s boxing gym in Glouster, Schlater has become a skilled fighter who competed in his second professional match.
“I don’t know who’s more surprised: My teaching friends when I tell them I box, or my boxing friends when I tell them I’m a teacher,” Schlater said.
Having no intention of becoming a professional boxer when he first took up the sport, Schlater entered West Virginia’s Toughman Contest, an amateur boxing event.
“I trained for a few weeks, then just went in wild like everyone else. … We went in there wild as hell,” Schlater said.
After six attempts at the competition, Schlater finished runner-up in 2015. The following year, he closed with a win, meaning he was now a professional fighter who couldn’t take anymore amateur bouts.
Schlater didn’t know he wanted to be a teacher until he was three years into taking business classes at the University of Rio Grande. But he knew he was on the right path after his first set of observation hours in college. “My first classroom was a fifth-grade math and science room, so I guess it worked out,” Schlater said.
But the talk of the classroom doesn’t end at school — Schlater’s wife, Robyn, teaches at Gallia Academy High School. Before heading off to his workout, he trades teacher “war stories” with Robyn.
After the stories, Schlater checks on the chickens he raises in order to avoid having to go to the grocery store every time he wants eggs. He fondly refers to himself as “Chicken Tender.”
But as Schlater’s second professional fight approached, his diet consisted of nothing but gallons of water — no eggs. In the three days prior to his weigh-in, he didn’t eat or drink at all in order to shed water weight and fit into his weight class.
The night before the fight, he didn’t speak much before the weigh-in — he was trying to conserve his nearly depleted saliva.
Schlater weighed in at 154 pounds, a pound and half under the cutoff for a middleweight fighter and just under his opponent, Corey Dulaney, of Columbus. In May, Schlater’s first professional fight — also against Dulaney — ended in a draw.
On the night of the Dec. 22 fight at Express Live!, an entertainment venue in Columbus, the boxers spent their pre-bout time in the green room. The walls were adorned with concert photography and autographed Bud Light guitars.
The first fight on the night’s ticket was scratched after the on-site doctor and the commissioner disqualified one of the boxers for high blood pressure. Schlater was given only a 15-minute notice before his fight was set to begin, leaving him with unwrapped hands and no time to warm up.
“This happens every time,” Schlater complained. His first fight against Dulaney began under similar circumstances.
Minutes later, the bell rang and the rounds began to rattle off, alternating in favor of Schlater and Dulaney.
As the final bell tolled, the two embraced and returned to their corners, waiting for the decision.
The referee requested that they both remove their gloves and meet in the center of the ring. He raised both of their hands. A draw. The same result as his first fight against Dulaney.
Schlater rolled his eyes and cursed under his breath.
“Just didn’t do what I needed to do,” he said while biting his lip.
The night closed with a beer and an embrace from his wife as the rest of the card’s fighters stepped into the ring.
“I never had any thought in my mind that I would end up going pro at the end of all this, but here I am.”