By Sally Deering
Early on in his amateur career Muhammad Ali won the title of Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion of the World with champs like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather following in Ali’s footsteps. The Golden Gloves was their training ground, the place where they learned to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.
The Golden Gloves is still training future champs and its franchise, the NJ Golden Gloves continues to provide amateur boxers the opportunity to shine in the ring and take home the title. This year, Jersey City became the first city to host all NJ Golden Gloves tournaments on its turf, and the tournaments, which began on Saturday, March 1 will be held every Saturday at Dickinson and Ferris High Schools and Elementary Schools No. 7 and 17. The location for the championship bout on April 12 is still to be decided.
“With a brand new boxing program and a progressive agenda to promote health and fitness, we couldn’t think of a better partner for the Golden Gloves than Jersey City,” Dan Doyle, President of the NJ Golden Gloves says. “With its great location and many outstanding amenities for visitors, Jersey City is the perfect place to host the tournament. Golden Gloves boxing has found a home in Jersey City, which has a rich history in boxing.”
Champion of the World
For the NJ Golden Gloves, 300 New Jersey boxers have registered to compete for the New Jersey Championship Title and one championship hopeful is Tony “Show Time” Rivera, 22, of Jersey City, representing the Jersey City Recreation Department. Rivera, who works nights as a security guard goes for a 5-mile run as part of his training as soon as he gets off work. He then sleeps until early evening and hits the gym for three hours. It’s a rigorous schedule, but one that definitely pays off. Last year, Rivera won the Diamond Gloves at the NJ Golden Gloves and this year he wants to win the big title. On Mar 8, Rivera won his bout and on Sat, Mar. 15 he boxes in the semi-finals at Ferris High School his alma-mater.
“I would love to go to the Olympics, but my main goal is to become champion of the world and represent my city, Jersey City,” Rivera says, just back from the gym after a training session. “I look up to guys who trained in Jersey City like Arturo Gatti and the ‘old school’ boxers like Mark Medal. They were champs.”
Rivera owes a lot to his trainer Luis Cancino who pushes him to train hard. He says: “I couldn’t do this without Luis. He believes in me and pushes me. For every champ there’s a trainer who believes in him. He has a great heart.”
Boxing helps you mentally and physically, Rivera says. He also says it has been a great outlet for him that keeps him focused on believing in himself and setting goals.
“It pushes you to go after what you want,” Rivera says. “It has kept me off the streets and helped me focus.”
Boxing keeps him close to family and friends who come to the bouts to cheer him on, all wearing Tony “Show Time” Rivera T-Shirts to show their support. Win or lose, after the bouts Rivera and his opponents are good friends, even after feeling the effects of their swift and mighty jabs and hooks. There may be sore muscles, but never sore feelings after a bout.
‘You feel bad of course, but it’s never personal, it’s just business,” Rivera says. “At the end of the day, outside the ring I respect my opponent. He trained hard, too, and there’s a mutual respect. I know he’s going through the same thing I’m going through. Once the fight is over there’s nothing but love at the end of the day.”
TRAINING THE NEXT ALI
Paul Dunleavy grew up in Jersey City and learned to box at the local PAL (Police Athletic League) when he was just 13. He boxed three times in the NJ Golden Gloves and for the past five years he’s been training boxers and NJ Golden Gloves competitors.
“Boxing changed my life,” Dunleavy says, “and it wasn’t about being a champ. It was the people I had been around. The confidence I built. You walk into a gym and you’re dealing with guys from all over the world. You realize we’re all the same. It gives you experience with other people and other cultures. I have nothing but good friends and great things happen to me from boxing.”
Dunleavy says you can take a kid who may have a drug problem and if you introduce him to boxing, you can wean him from a path of drug abuse to a life with purpose.
“A kid can have a drug problem because he has nothing going on,” Dunleavy says. “In the gym, they respect the rules and everybody in the gym and slowly that feeds into their personal life.”
You can’t just be a trainer, you have to be a friend, Dunleavy says.
“They want someone to hear them,” Dunleavy says. “They want someone to believe in them.”
JERSEY CITY’S GOLDEN RING
Jersey City has always been a big boxing town with several gyms for kids to learn the sport and recently, the city’s recreation department launched a youth boxing program. And as host to the NJ Golden Gloves, Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop sees the program and the Golden Gloves as a positive outlet for kids.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Jersey City to host all eight Golden Gloves matches, which not only provides a recreational outlet for our families, but also showcases the sport to our youth,” Mayor Fulop says. “As part of expanding our recreation department, this year we launched a youth boxing program which has nearly 100 registered participants. Hosting the Golden Gloves is a chance for our youth to see the sport in action.”
IF YOU GO:
NJ Golden Gloves
General Admission: $15 and $20 for ringside seats.
Children under 12 can attend for free with the supervision of an adult.
All fights begin at 7 p.m.
For more info; www.njgoldengloves.com
March 22: Dickinson High School, 2 Palisade Ave
March 29: Middle School No. 7, 222 Laidlaw Ave
April 05: Dickinson High School, 2 Palisade Ave
April 12: Location TO BE DETERMINED