CELINA - For the first time in 107 years, professional boxing will make its return to Mercer county for the Hometown Showdown.

Van Wert’s own Paul Barton will fight Michael Widmer of Toledo in the cruiserweight division as the third of six fights to take place.

The 34 year-old will be taking the ring for his first and last professional fight after dedicating 27 years to the sport he loves.

Barton calls boxing the “family business,” due to the fact that he grew up with a father that was the number five fighter in the world at one time. His father had followed in the path of his grandfather, and Paul seemed destined to do the same.

“I fell in love with the dedication and the lifestyle boxing created.” said Paul. “The happiness this sport can create is a great thing to see.”

With his dad still traveling the country for the first 10 years of his life, Paul found the Arthur Lesow Community Center as a place for him to go whenever he needed to get away. For kids in Monroe, Michigan, it was a safe haven that helped them stay out of trouble.

It may have just been a boxing gym with basketball courts to some people, but to others, it’s a place that shaped their childhood.

Barton says that boxing “literally saved his life” after being in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers and foster homes for so many years.

After growing up in such an unorthodox fashion, this line of thinking is what led him to become a major player in the Van Wert community.

When he moved back to Van Wert after a short five year hiatus, he was disappointed in the fact that there were very few options for kids in town to positively spend their time. This is where the birth of the Sweet Science Boxing Gym comes in to play.

Paul owned this downtown gym for a year, opening it with the same purpose in mind of the community center he spent so much time in when he was young.

“We had a lot of kids come in during the short amount of time that we were open.” he recounted,”It’s something I might like to try again in the future when my finances are in order.”

Barton also raised $2,400 for the Westwood Behavioral Health Center by hosting the “dodge addiction” dodge ball tournament. He’s had thoughts of adding a “kick addiction” kickball tournament, and “knockout addiction” boxing tournament to make it a series of games, maybe even as soon as this year.

When it comes to tonight’s fight however, Paul “Nite Nite” Barton will not be playing any games.

Barton is a boxer through and through. His challenger, Michael Widmer is a mixed martial arts fighter, who is crossing over into the realm of boxing.

On a smaller scale, this fight has shades of when Conor McGregor, an MMA fighter, crossed over into the boxing world to fight Floyd Mayweather, a pure boxer. If you don’t know how that ended, well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty for Conor McGregor.

When asked about his game plan for the fight tonight, Paul had this to say.

“The plan for the first round is to entertain. The plan for the second round is to make it rain. It’s going to be a rude awakening for him when this fight doesn’t go past the second round.”

Barton says every move he’ll make has a purpose, and he has no plans on leaving this fight up to the judges.

“I’ve been called 'Nite Nite' for the last seven years, and I plan on living up to my name. I’m going in there to knock his head off,” stated the boxer. “I’ve been training hard for weeks, and I’m at a place where my body feels great.”

Beyond the fight, Paul realizes that he serves a bigger purpose to his wife and six children. He wants to show them that it doesn’t matter how old you are or what shape you’re in, if you put your mind to it, the sky is the limit. The direction he’s headed in after this will clearly be dictated by his family.

“I’ve done my due diligence to the sport, and I was able to travel the country doing what I love with my wife. Two of the craziest athletes in Van Wert County happen to be my kids, and they need to be pushed to succeed just like I was.”

Tickets for Saturday can be purchased by calling 352-201-1909 or going to eventbrite.com. Doors to the venue will open at 7 p.m. and the fights will begin at 8 p.m.