Derek Fields working out in the M-Power Gym in Vandalia. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED
Photo: columnist
Photo: columnist

Archdeacon: Trotwood boxer stays strong after tragedy

Parents’ house, where he also lived, destroyed by Memorial Day tornado.

When Derek Fields tried to touch gloves with his opponent as a show of sportsmanship at the start of their bout at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds earlier this month, the guy instead tried to sucker punch him.

During the first round, as the taller Fields continually stuck his jab into the face of his stocky opponent, the guy became so incensed, he pulled off his head gear, flung it to the canvas and bulled forward crazily.

That’s when the referee had had enough and waved the bout to a momentary halt. Soon he was joined in the ring by Will Ashcraft, the co-promoter of the Miami Valley Sports Festival’s amateur fight night.

The two men huddled and finally brought Fields and the other guy together and said they wanted to see boxing, not big-time wrestling. If not, the fight would be stopped.

With calm supposedly reestablished, the 41-year-old Fields again tried to touch gloves and again the guy whistled a haymaker just past his chin.

But after that Fields began to take charge in the ring, so much so that a woman who was there with his opponent, left her seat, rushed up to the ring apron and began to scream at her man as he was being pummeled:

“Kick his (butt) you (expletive)!… Kick his (butt) you (expletive!)”

The more she berated her fellow – and she did it for the rest of the fight – the more the two paramedics sitting just behind her at ringside began to stifle laughter and thank their stars.

“Glad I’m not married to her,” one whispered.

Fields though didn’t falter. He listened to his trainers – Craig Thurmond and Ron Daniels – and, as he put it, “I stuck to the script.”

He ended up overwhelming the guy and winning easily because he hadn’t taken the bait. He had resisted sacrificing his reach ad superior skills and making the bout an anything-goes brawl.

He wasn’t going to get pulled into that. He’d already been caught in one whirlwind not long ago.

And that one nearly knocked out his parents and him out.

He lived with his dad and mom – Ted and Arlevia Fields – in a nice home build along one of the fairways at the once picturesque, now abandoned, Moss Creek Golf Club. Late on Memorial Day an EF-4 tornado with winds near 170 mph blew their world apart.

Now four months later, their house is still looking like war-zone rubble and is facing the inevitable.

As the big X painted on what’s left of the front of the house indicates, the place is slated for demolition any day now.

With a bit of reluctance, Fields agreed to give a tour of the house before heading to a workout at the M-Power Gym in Vandalia the other day.

“It saddens me when I pull up here,” he said after getting out of the car he had to get after his Jeep – which had been parked in the driveway – was demolished in the tornado. “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

The scene now was surreal.

The front door is still in place, but it opens to nothing. The sides and back wall of the house are missing. The roof is gone and so is the garage. A mattress lies out in the front of the house. A beige couch stands on end, propped against one of the only upright walls inside.

“This is where my parents ate their breakfasts every morning,” he said as he moved toward the back of the home. “The kitchen was right here and now it’s in complete shambles.“

The white kitchen cabinets have crashed down near the sink and red teakettle still rests next to them. Behind them is a toaster covered with pieces of dry wall and plaster.

“Right back here is kind of an heirloom,” he said as he pointed to a now weathered wooden cabinet. “It belonged to my grandmother. It was something we wanted to salvage, but we couldn’t because of the (brick) wall that came down and rests on it now

His voice trailed off and as he stood there in silence, you heard a chorus of crickets from the nearby bushes and grass. Up above clouds drifted in the late afternoon’s blue sky.

The view of the golf course – unobstructed because there is no back to the house – unfortunately is better than ever. But the nearby fairway and rough ere overgrown and strewn with debris.

“When the place was booming, we’d sit out back and watch the guys playing golf,” he said. “At night it was so peaceful. I’d do my running out there and when my kids would come visit, they’d ride bikes there.

“The place was just awesome.”

‘It’s all on you’

Fields played football for Trotwood Madison High and since graduating in 1996, he’s worked steadily and came within three courses from getting a bachelor of arts degree from Central State and then Wright State.

He said his parents stressed education. His dad graduated from Kentucky State and then got masters degrees at the University of Dayton and Central Michigan. He ended up working with the Montgomery County courts.

His mom is a Prairie View A & M grad and has a masters from UD, as well. She was a long time educator with Dayton Public Schools.

“I went four years at Central State to become an intervention specialist for special education students,” he said. “I had to quit because I couldn’t commit to student teaching. They wanted me to quit my job and spend a semester student teaching, but I had to work. I had bills to pay.”

He had been married, had three children and then divorced, which prompted his move back in with is parents some eight years ago.

He ended up transferring his credits to Wright State and changing his major.

Eight years ago he took up boxing as a way to stay fit and test himself: “I like boxing because you can’t blame anybody. How hard you train often determines what you get out of it. It’s not a teammate’s fault. It’s all on you.

“A lot of people tell me they could never do something like this. That’ why I like it. I’m one of those people who feels he can do anything, that he can handle anything.”

But the tornado has tested that.

‘Everything went black’

Derek Felds at the house he shared with his parents on the old Moss Creek Golf Club in Trotwood. The home was destroyed by a Memorial Day tornado and is slated for demolition. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED
Photo: columnist

He said on Memorial Day night his dad was sitting on that same upended couch watching the late-night news when he heard the weatherman’s urgent warning about the coming tornado.

“My mom was already sleeping so he woke her and they got to the basement just in time,” he said.

“That’s when they said everything went black and all the could hear was stuff shattering and stuff flying. They had gotten in the bathroom in the basement, but the walls were shaking. They ended up in the hallway just holding each other until the wind stopped.”

Fields was not there. He had gone to Boston for a week to visit friends and had no idea about the tornado until he got a call that night from his mom.

She told him their home was all but gone.

The next day he said his kids – Dekara is now a 19-year-old sophomore at Wright State, 15-year-old Cadira goes to DECA and Derek Jr. is a seventh grader at Trotwood Madison Middle School – and his ex-wife came to rescue what they could of his things and help get “Nana” and “Papa” to safety.

His parents first found refuge at Trotwood Madison school and then in a West Dayton church before finally ending up at an Englewood hotel for a month. He eventually lived there, too.

He said as soon as he had returned from Boston, a group of people from his job at Bullen Ultrasonics in Eaton came over to help him and his family pack up what they could and then store it in the company’s warehouse.

Just as the best in people showed itself then, so did some of the worst.

Thieves came through the tornado-ravaged neighborhood at night and stole what they could.

Fields said his parents – both in her late 70s – have decided not to rebuild: “This has been brutal for them.” He said they have moved into a condo in Englewood.

He now lives in an apartment downtown. His motorcycle – a Harley Softail Deuce – is being stored at Buckminn’s D & D Harley Davidson in Xenia.

Fields – who’s had four fights and has plans for another in December – knows his competitive days in the ring are coming to an end soon because of his age. One day he hopes to run a program training kids in boxing and other sports.

But he said he also boxes as a way to relax his mind and forget about everything else going on in his life. That’s always worked for him, though he admitted since the tornado it’s been a challenge,

And then comes a night like the one he had in the Fairgrounds ring earlier this month.

As the woman at ringside berated his opponent over and over and over – yelling at him to “Kick his (butt) you (expletive)!,”’ – he realized things could be worse.

He could be married to her.

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