By Mark F. Gray
Maryland’s National Golden Gloves boxing champions reads like a who’s who list of Hall of Fame talent that has made a significant impact on the sweet science. From Olympic medalists to world title holders the D.M.V.’s amateur talent continues to rank elite in the sport.
The future champions will begin the quest for the next generation’s glory at Rosecroft Raceway when the preliminary bouts of the Washington Golden Gloves Championship begin in southern Maryland. These fighters, who emerge as regional champions, will have been tested through six weeks of intense bouts with a chance to earn a trip to the National Golden Gloves Tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee May 5-12.
“Over the last 10 years this has probably become the tournament in the nation,” producer Bobby Magruder told the AFRO.
Maryland’s impact on the National Golden Gloves dates back over 40 years where former Olympic gold medalist and world champion Sugar Ray Leonard was born before he burst on to the international scene during the 1976 Olympics. Since then a cadre of champions have emerged from this under-appreciated cradle of excellence that has been dwarfed by athletes who compete in team sports.
“Golden Gloves is similar to a Major League Baseball farm system for boxing,” Magruder said. “All the top promoters keep an eye on this tournament because this is where most contenders are discovered. Back in the day you would see the Don King’s and Bob Arum’s who were looking to sign champions after [the national tournament]. These days it’s the [Oscar] De La Hoya’s and [Floyd] Mayweather’s who are waiting to sign them.”
Leonard probably remains the most transcendent fighter to emerge from Maryland’s Golden Gloves program. However, he is not the only one who went from the obscurity of trying to qualify to compete in the National Golden Gloves Tournament to world champion. Nearly every professional contender or champion from this region has made a debut that validated their credibility as elite boxers.
Current world junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd and former two-time light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson are two of the D.M.V.’s title holders who have emerged from the Washington Golden Gloves Championship Tournament. However, there’s one family who has made the biggest impact as any since emerging from the program.
Team Gary Russell is the only family in history to produce four national Golden Gloves champions. The boxing family from Capital Heights introduced its family to the boxing world from this tournament and their brand has skyrocketed since.
Current world featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr. was the first of the quartet of Russells whose initial step to international acclaim was launched from this stage. “Jr.” set the tone for his brothers by winning the national championship and becoming a world champion which came to fruition on March 28, 2015 with his victory over Jhonny Gonzalez to give him the World Boxing Council belt.
His brothers –Gary Antuanne and Gary Antonio also became national champions. Gary Antonio won the 2013 Golden Gloves and is an undefeated super bantamweight contender whose record is 12-0 with 10 knockouts. Gary Autuanne won the D.C. Golden Gloves outstanding boxer award before winning the national championship in 2015. He won the Olympic Bronze medal in 2016. Antuanne was also valedictorian of his high school graduating class which is another aspect of the Golden Gloves program.
“We’re trying to keep kids off the street and give them to believe in,” McGruder said.
Ten fighters will emerge from the local tournament which concludes on April 6. The group from D.C., Delaware and Maryland will the face Virginia/North Carolina winners for the right to compete in Chattanooga.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.