March brings its own form of madness for local boxing fans with the March 15 return of Indiana Golden Gloves. According to George DeFabis, former president of the Indiana Golden Gloves, this year’s tournament promises to be a good one. Two defending champions, Kenny Thomas, Jr. and Malcolm Jones, are returning; both fought in the 2012 Olympic Boxing Trials earlier this month in Colorado Springs.
Thomas, 17 and a sophomore at Lawrence Central High School, won the 138 pound state championship last year. In 2010, he won the National Jr. Golden Gloves and the National 132 pound Silver Golden Gloves Championship. He fights for the Sarge Johnson Boxing Club in Indianapolis.
Kenneth Thomas, Sr. acts as his son’s coach. He says that they plan to drop back down to 132 for this year’s tournament. “He just competed at 132 in the trials and that seems to be a good weight for him. We moved up to 138 last year but he performs better at 132.”
Thomas, Jr. began boxing when he was ten. He also runs cross country and track for Lawrence Central. He looks forward to stepping in the ring again in his hometown. “I want to spread my fan-base here in Indy.”
Also having just returned from the Olympic trials, Malcolm Jones will defend his 178 pound title. Jones, 18, represents Sarge Johnson, too. Last year, Jones fought in the national championship, losing a disputed decision in the quarterfinals.
Coach Archie Chambers describes Jones's style as "very aggressive." He adds, "He's one of the hardest workers in the gym. He goes to school [Ivy Tech] all day and works out every night. He also manages a Taco Bell on the weekends."
Jones says, "I try to stay busy in and out of the ring." After coming back from the box-offs, he doesn't see the local scene as a step-down. "My goal is to win the state again this year and go to the nationals and take the 178 pound title. I'll turn pro after that."
In addition to Thomas and Jones returning this year, Steven Perry, fighting for Broad Ripple Martial Arts, will defend his 141 pound championship title.
Since 1930, Indiana has produced 24 national Golden Gloves champions, two of whom became world champions, including three-time light heavyweight champion, Marvin Johnson. (In 1976, Cincinnati’s Aaron Pryor represented Indiana and later became the light welterweight champion, from 1980 to 1985.) The former World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Champion and Indianapolis native, Lamon Brewster, won the Indiana State Golden Gloves title.
The Indiana team is due: The last national champion from Indiana was Lafayette’s Darnell Wilson, who won the 156-pound championship, in 1993.
The National Golden Gloves has produced a who’s who of boxing greats, including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. among others.
But this tournament produces more than boxers. Through this competition, the Indiana Golden Gloves award five $1,000 scholarships, to its fighters. Boxers need not win fights to win scholarships. The Gloves reward boxers who maintain good grades and show an interest in pursuing an education.
In fact, Jones attends Ivy Tech, where he is studying business construction, thanks to a scholarship he won at last year's tournament.
The Golden Gloves take place each Thursday at Tyndall Armory, from 7:30 p.m., beginning March 15 and ending April 19, the championship night. The senior boxers, ages 17 to 34, will compete in the usual divisions: Open, Junior Open, Novice and Sub-Novice. The Open champions will compete in the national tournament in Mesquite, Nevada, from April 30 through May 5.
This year’s tournament will once again include the Junior Gloves, a tournament involving young boxers, from ages eight to 16. These fights will be interspersed within the regular tournament.
Each night will feature approximately 15 fights. In an age of sky-high prices for sporting events, the Gloves’ tickets are hard to beat.
Ringside seats are $12 and $10 for general admission. As a bonus, for $60, fans can purchase ringside seats for the six sessions. DeFabis adds that the ringside seats for the final week sell out in advance. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds box office or through Jason Spears (317-838-7436) or Jasgoldengloves@sbcglobal.net.