“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.

From left to right, Angela Huffman of Delaware, Eddie Osborne of Jackson, Schlater and Drew Mendenhall of Athens, spar in Sam’s Gym on Nov. 28. Sam’s Gym is the oldest gym in Ohio, run by Sam Jones and his father before him. (Correction: A previous version of this photo caption misstated Jones’ name.)


Ben Schlater jokes with Sam Jones as he gets ready to leave the ring for the night on Nov. 28. Schlater got his start at the West Virginia Toughman Contest. His goal was to compete in one amateur fight before he died. After losing his first five, Schlater went back for a sixth go and finished second. “Then I got runner-up and I was like, ‘Shoot, now I’ve got to do it ‘til I win, right?’” (Correction: A previous version of this photo caption misstated Jones’ name.)

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. 

Schlater asks his class who wants to help pass out jars to house their pet crickets on Dec. 3. Schlater teaches fifth-grade math and science at Vinton Elementary School. “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.


Schlater fist-bumps Damian Harmon as he leaves class on Dec. 5. “I wish we started earlier, because I hate how late we get out,” Schlater said. “We’re out of here at 4:30, and then I’ve got to go right to Sam’s (Gym) by 6.”

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 does a slip drill with a teardrop bag at a boxing gym in Gallipolis on Nov. 26.

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. 

Robyn Schlater (left) laughs at something her husband, Ben, said as they swap teaching stories from the day on Dec. 4. 


Ben said he knew he was going to marry Robyn after their third date. “I thought she was making stuff up. ... She kept saying she liked all the things that I liked,” Ben said. “She said she liked classic rock, and I was like all right.” Ben put Robyn to the test by asking her what song was on the radio; she promptly answered that it was •Skid Row’s “18 and Life.” “That’s when I knew it was for real,” he said.


Robyn and Ben Schlater walk through the light show in the •Gallipolis City Park, where they got engaged four years earlier. 


Robyn’s best friend, Megan, still holds it against Ben that she didn’t know about the engagement before it happened. “I couldn’t tell her because I knew she would snitch,” Ben said.

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.

Schlater squares off against Cory Dulaney, of Columbus. Schlater’s official weight was 154.0 lbs, a pound and half under the cut-off for the middleweight class. Before the weigh-in, Schlater didn’t eat or drink anything in three days. He had little to say before the weigh-in — he was trying to conserve his saliva due to his dehydration.


Schlater ties up his glove.

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. 

Despite a door price of $40, Express Live! in Columbus brims with people during Schlater’s bout with Dulaney, the first fight of seven on the night’s schedule.


Schlater yells out as he grapples with Dulaney in the fourth round of their fight on Dec. 22.

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. 

Schlater rolls his eyes as the official lifts both his and Dulaney’s arms, signaling the result of the six-round bout was a draw. “I just didn’t do what I needed to do,” Schlater said while biting his lip.


Ben and Robyn Schlater embrace after his Dec. 22 fight as her father, Dewey Rhodes, laughs behind them. “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,” Schlater said.

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.”

@blake_nissen

bn420115@ohio.edu

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