Golden Gloves Tournament Starts Tomorrow
by Geoff Kelly - posted 12:17 pm, January 20, 2012
Our sweet science correspondent, Aaron Lowinger, sends in this dispatch:
Boxing is a unique obsession to have these days in America. It’s been about 40 years since boxing last captured the sporting imagination of Americans, who now seem focused on Tebowesque ESPN melodramas. But boxing hasn’t lost its power to perplex, confuse, inspire, and obsess both participant and spectator.
It certainly has become a big part of Sean Reynolds’ identity in the last two years. I first met Sean years ago at poetry events. He moved to Buffalo from Chicago to pursue a PhD in postmodern poetry at UB and always struck me as shy, intelligent, diminutive—in other words, the last person I could imagine becoming a boxer. When I found out a few months back that he was training for the Golden Gloves, I immediately resolved to to spend some time with boxing and cultivate my own obsession with it.
I’ve been down into basement of First Presbyterian Church where KC’s Fitness has its boxing gym a handful of times and I’ve been pretty surprised by the atmosphere of the place. No macho overtones, Eastern religious icons, and a holistic approach towards making mind and body better. One of the teachers in the gym, Pietro Muscato, of Buffalo’s Muscato boxing lineage, spoke consistently of the importance of love in boxing. Reynolds later told me that at one point Muscato had written on the chalkboard during a boxing class, “WHOEVER LOVES THE MOST, WINS.”
I’ve seen Muscato lead the grueling hour-long classes on Saturday mornings to around 30 people twice, and both times half of the class were women. And there’s a lot of repeat students, folks bitten by the boxing bug who just can’t get enough. Some of them choose to spar, but most do not, preferring to use the strenuous workouts for fitness’ sake.
Tonight I called Don Patterson, organizer for Saturday’s tournament, who told me he expects over a hundred boxers from all over New York State, excluding the New York City metro region, to compete in this year’s Carubba Collision Golden Gloves (Patterson went out of his way to let me know that Carubba’s has a touch of the boxing virus himself). Fighters between ages 17 and 35 fight 3 two-minute rounds within their weight classes and winners move on to the next rounds to be held in the coming weeks in the newly-renovated Statler Ballroom. Patterson expects 5 or 6 women to be competing in the first round tomorrow night.
Patterson was quick to point out that outside of the Olympics there really isn’t a single amateur sporting event like the Golden Gloves out there. And it’s true, in no other sport can an amateur athlete enter a competition that can lead right to the pinnacle of that sport within a few years. Two days away from what sounds like a challenging event to organize, to put it mildly, and Patterson was beaming with pride over the phone about the event.
A native New Yorker, Patterson still couldn’t help himself delving into Buffalo’s rich boxing history, mentioning the story of Golden Gloves Hall of Famer Monsignor Franklin Kelliher. As the legend goes, Kelliher was a formidable heavyweight in his own right in the 1920’s before he entered the priesthood. And then as a priest he continued his fighting career in disguise, as the “Masked Marvel.” Kelliher, however, maintained a lifelong commitment to boxing and organized the Buffalo Golden Gloves for years, training and mentoring young men in boxing.
Famed author and Lockport-native Joyce Carol Oates attended the Golden Gloves in Buffalo in the early 1950s with her father, beginning a lifelong obsession of her own with the sport. Her book On Boxing remains a classic in sports literature, although the overwhelming thesis of her book is that boxing is much closer to art than it is to sport. So come for the art, and try to figure out which of the fighters is most likely to become a priest/wrestler.
Carubba Collision Golden Gloves, Saturday January 21, ECC Burt Flickinger Center, 21 Oak St, Buffalo. $25