National Golden Gloves a big hit in Grand Rapids
by David Mayo | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday May 11, 2008, 1:30 AM
Email Webmaster
Website By:
Racecol Web Solutions
Jim Beasley, the National Golden Gloves' executive director, won't be surprised if the
tournament comes to Grand Rapids again."I'll bet they bid again," he said. GRAND RAPIDS
-- Now that local organizers did such an admirable job hosting the 81st National Golden
Gloves, plenty of people wonder when it will return. It is a phenomenom familiar to Ray
Rodgers, president of Golden Gloves Association of America. "I was literally taking the rings
down on Saturday night after we concluded in 2005," in Little Rock, Ark., Rodgers said,
"and some officials from the city approached me and asked, 'When can we do this again?'"
When Jerry "Ace" Miller hosts National Golden Gloves, he takes sleeping quarters in his
boxing gymnasium in the weeks leading up to the event. "I just get in a mode," said Miller, of
Knoxville, Tenn., home of the Golden Gloves franchise he oversees. Miller and Rodgers,
who directs the Mid-South franchise, govern Golden Gloves in eight southern states, from
the Carolinas to the Texas state line. Their franchises have hosted four national
tournaments each. Miller had last year's. Rodgers wants it again in 2010. They agree that
once the circus hits town, the mechanism falls into place, the fights happen as scheduled,
the first-night tweaks are addressed, and things run smoothly. The two-year lead-up, on the
other hand, is all-encompassing. And they can't stop themselves from trying to host more.
Grand Rapids got a glowing reception this week. Quite simply, if local Golden Gloves
organizers want the tournament back, national organizers said they would be overjoyed to
return. There were some minor issues with multiple downtown hotels, particularly for some
of the older franchise holders, but the best overall description of how Golden Gloves
perceives Grand Rapids is that it wasn't just hospitable, but "functionally hospitable," said
John Van Sickler, the organization's tournament operations director from Albuquerque, N.M.
Salt Lake City hosts next year for the first time in 41 years, and Golden Gloves is a national
tournament in every sense. But Golden Gloves also feeds its hotbeds. It might have found a
new one. The thing about this tournament is no franchise holder entirely understands what
is involved until he or she does one, finds out it's really just a blown-up franchise
tournament with a lot more days and people involved, and discovers the mechanisms used
the first time often can be regenerated years later. "It takes you a month to get over it,"
Rodgers said. "But to me, it's easy now. You still have to know the routine, but I know what
the routine is." Grand Rapids has some benefits in that respect, in that the West Michigan
Sports Commission was not formed when this tournament was secured two years ago, but
benefited this event structurally, while discovering its merits and drawbacks, right along with
local organizers. That could prove important as Michigan Golden Gloves goes forward.
Change is imminent within the local franchise. Dave Packer, the Grand Rapids native and
national vice-president, intends to retain his national delegate status, and probably run for
national president in 2011, but may name his replacement as local tournament director
before 2009. It could signal the beginning of a similar transition to the one that ultimately
lifted Packer to his powerful status nationally, after Bob Todish began grooming him to take
over the local franchise almost three decades ago. How that transpires could affect Grand
Rapids' future pursuits of this tournament, but there is a lot of vitality in the local
organization, and the 40-plus volunteers who work within it -- and were out in force during
the nationals -- make for a strong internal structure. No one can do a National Golden
Gloves alone. And when the organization finds a place where the tournament works, and
the local group likes hosting, then it tends to return. "We're going to go away with a good
memory of this place," said Jim Beasley, Golden Gloves' executive director. "We like to
move around. But there's also some comfort in knowing that when you get to the
destination, the people are savvy. "I'll bet they bid again."