The return of Golden Gloves

By David Alan Beck

The Indiana Golden Gloves returns on March 9 at Tyndall Armory, 711 N. Pennsylvania St. This year's tournament will once again include the Junior Gloves, a tournament involving young boxers, from ages 8 to 16. These fights will be interspersed within the regular Golden Gloves Tournament. The Junior Gloves winners will then compete in the National Junior Gloves Tournament at Chattanooga, Tenn.

According to George DeFabis, former president of the Indiana Golden Gloves, the Junior Gloves provides young boxers a chance to compete in front of a crowd. "These kids are the grass-roots of our program. By giving them experience, we hope that they will become our future Golden Glove champions. What these kids lack in finesse, they will make up for in action."

Last year was the first year to incorporate the Junior Gloves into the Golden Gloves. The results were just what DeFabis wanted. Travis DePew, 16 years old at the time, won the national championship in the 178-pound division. DeFabis says, "DePew's success proves that our younger fighters have talent and will be the future of our Golden Gloves tournament and, hopefully, future champions."

In fact, DePew's history goes beyond his years. Both his father and his grandfather fought in the Gloves. Moreover, his grandfather coached several champions, for the Lafayette team.

Since 1930, Indiana has produced 24 national 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 current World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Champion and Indianapolis native Lamon Brewster won the Indiana State Golden Gloves title.

The Indiana team is due for a future champion. The last national champion from Indiana was Lafayette's Darnell Wilson, who won the 156-pound championship, in 1993.

But this tournament produces more than boxers. Through this competition, the Indiana Golden Gloves awards five $1,000 scholarships to its fighters. Fighters need not win fights to win scholarships. The Gloves reward boxers who maintain good grades and show an interest in pursuing an education.

No better example of the success of these scholarships is Rodney Cummings, the prosecutor for Madison County. Cummings won the Indiana State Middleweight Championship in 1978 and 1979. He was also the state's novice champion in 1975.

More importantly, Cummings earned three Golden Gloves scholarships during his amateur boxing career, enabling him to get his degree from Ball State. Cummings reflects, "Simply put, without those scholarships, I couldn't have gone to school. Sure, I had dreams of being a world champion, but I also wanted to go to college. By participating in the Gloves, I not only gained a few state titles, but also an education."

After receiving his degree, Cummings worked for the Anderson Police Department for 15 years. During that time, he completed law school at Indiana University (at Indianapolis). "What is so great about the scholarship is that it allows kids who come from poor and deprived backgrounds to have a chance to make something of themselves."

Cummings knows about hard times. His mother was a drug addict and he was headed down the wrong road. "Boxing and education brought me to where I am. By boxing, I learned discipline. I also learned that if I could get up in that ring and face whatever obstacle was in front of me, I could do anything."

After receiving his law degree, Cummings ran for prosecutor in Madison County in 1994. He has been the prosecutor for 12 years. He still is involved in boxing. He and Mark Lemerick train kids in the Anderson area. In fact, one of their protégés, Steven Perry, won the 119-pound National Silver Gloves Tournament and is nationally ranked. Perry will be fighting in this year's Junior Gloves. "I think that he has the chance to really go somewhere, to bring back championships like Indiana fighters did in the past."

The Golden Gloves takes place on five consecutive Thursdays, beginning on March 9. 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 Little Rock, Ark., May 15-21.

Each night will feature 18 to 20 fights. In an age of sky-high prices for sporting events, it is hard to beat the ticket costs. Ringside seats are $10 and $9 for general admission. DeFabis adds that the ringside seats for the final two weeks sell out in advance. So, don't wait to buy tickets.

Tickets are available at the Indiana State Fairgrounds box office or through Jason Spears (jasgoldengloves@sbcglobal.net or ingoldenglovesfd@yahoo.com or 317-838-7436). They will also be available at the Tyndall Armory on the night of the fights. Doors open at 6:30; fights begin at 7:30 p.m.

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