National Golden Gloves has a rich history
by David Mayo | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday May 04, 2008, 12:10 AM
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GRAND RAPIDS -- Golden Gloves began as a protest movement. In some ways,
it never wandered far from its non-conformist roots. Stan Gallup remembers
when the Chicago Tribune discarded the brand name it had built for more than
three decades. Gallup is 86, and retired to Kentucky, but the recollection of that
1963 meeting still stirs him. The newspaper had hosted National Golden Gloves
since it created the tournament.  In one pronouncement, at the end of a
business meeting, that 36-year relationship ended. "I was shocked," Gallup
said, "and I was the guy who stood up and said, 'To hell with you guys then,
we'll take it over and move it someplace else.' " Someplace else proved to be
just about anywhere, including Grand Rapids, which becomes the tournament's
29th host this week. The 81st National Golden Gloves, at DeVos Place, will
continue a rich history that includes some of boxing's biggest names as
champions of the amateur classic -- among them, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali
(then Cassius Clay), Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, and Grand Rapids' Floyd
Mayweather. The national tournament has been conducted since 1928, though
its foundation was set five years earlier, when the Tribune sponsored a
tournament to challenge a boxing ban in Illinois, and drew 424 entries. In 1927,
New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico announced a tournament called
Golden Gloves. With the Illinois ban lifted, Tribune sports editor Arch Ward
followed suit the next year, with an agreement that winners of the two
tournaments would meet. Golden Gloves quickly expanded regionally, then
nationally, until the Tribune dropped it. Within weeks, many other newspapers,
including The Press, also withdrew Golden Gloves sponsorship. Gallup, who
settled in Roswell, N.M., after three years in China with the legendary Flying
Tigers during World War II, was part-owner of a radio station which sponsored
Golden Gloves. He quickly mustered support from a Kentucky man who
pledged to underwrite the 1964 tournament in Louisville. National Golden
Gloves has returned to Chicago only once since. "I don't think we thought about
what would happen when we started moving the tournament," Gallup said. "We
just wanted to have a tournament somewhere." Gallup drew up the 32 franchise
boundaries, which remain largely unchanged, except for the contraction of two
franchises. He generated new sponsorship, and by 1968 had become the first
paid employee in the non-profit Golden Gloves Association of America, though
he made a much better living with his sporting goods business, and
relinquished his boxing pay in 1986, while retaining the top post for another 13
years. He sent a team to South Africa during apartheid. He sent another to Cuba,
where he said he met one on one with Fidel Castro. And in the late-1970s, when
the Amateur Athletic Union began to break up, and its top boxing officials asked
Golden Gloves to take over as national governing body, Gallup declined. "I
personally said no, and no one else questioned it," he said. "We just felt like we
were Golden Gloves, and we were going to do our own thing." Some of the old
AAU personnel joined with Armed Forces boxing officials to form the heart of
the new governing body, the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, now called USA
Boxing. It long has been theorized that if Golden Gloves had taken the
governing role, key changes which diminished amateur boxing's popularity --
primarily mandatory headgear, which was the military standard -- might have
been thwarted. "The AAU and ABF guys were my enemies," Gallup said. "I
fought that headgear thing tooth and nail. Boxing is not a pitty-pat sport. In
Golden Gloves, we came to fight. In ABF, they came to box. The ABF guys used
to tell me I shouldn't say stuff like that. But there's a difference between
ballroom dancing and ballet." Golden Gloves has prided itself on such
independence since its creation, as does its delegate emeritus. "I'm the
Godfather of Golden Gloves," Gallup said, "so they're pretty nice to me and
don't make me do too much work anymore."