Amateur and youth boxing is alive again in Wisconsin. For the first time in a generation there is significant buzz surrounding up-and-coming fighters, Olympic hopefuls and world-ranked phenoms hailing from local areas.
The talent in the ring and the resurgence outside of the ring come in large part from the efforts of the Bob Lynch Boxing Foundation and the intense training taking place at venues like Ford’s Gym on Madison’s east side.
On Saturday night, the Marriott in Middleton was sold out to witness the most meaningful Golden Gloves tournament and showcase Wisconsin has had in years. During the event several fighters punched their tickets to represent the state in the National Golden Gloves tournament in May down in Tennessee. 365 Media, the parent company of FoxValley365, is the media partner of the Wisconsin Golden Gloves.
More than 300 spectators showed up at the Marriott for Golden Gloves and did not leave disappointed. The crowd was vocal, loud and engaged throughout and the atmosphere definitely added to the efforts each of the fighters gave in the ring.
Several bouts were to determine who would be on the team going to nationals, which loaded the card with talented fighters from across the state. Officials told Madison365 immediately after the event that this would be the best team any of them could remember being fielded by Wisconsin.
Nationals will be held May 5 – 12 in Chattanooga. Representing the state at 141 lbs will be Ricardo Rodriguez, who has trained in Madison for more than a decade. Madison’s own Marcus Johnson, who won his bout on Saturday to a thunderous reaction from the crowd, will be in the 152 lb weight class.
Olympic hopeful Briana Hendricks Che was unopposed during the tournament but will be on the team at 165 pounds. Kade McManus, who delivered a knockout to win his spot on the team, will fight at 165 pounds as well.
McManus was particularly animated after his victory and said it was the culmination of a lot of hard work.
“It was awesome,” McManus told Madison365 as he exited the ring on Saturday. “It’s a great feeling. It just shows that all the hard work I was doing paid off and it just feels really good. All those late nights and early mornings I spent at the gym. It finally means something.”
William Langston, Demetrious Reed and super heavyweight Luis Alvarado will round out the Wisconsin team. Alvarado has had a stellar international career and has routinely been ranked in the top five.
Alvarado was a spectacle during the final bout of the night on Saturday, literally eating blows being delivered by Reed. Alvarado began to turn it on late in the third round leading Reed’s corner to throw in the towel.
The buzz in the crowd reached a crescendo during a heavyweight bout between Ford’s Gym’s own Gunnar Walcavich who squared off against the massive Derris Wolfe. Wolfe warmed up by the press table occupied by Madison365 prior to the bout and possessed a menacing combination of size and agility.
As the bout began, Wolfe tossed Walcavich into the ropes and corners repeatedly while using leading left jabs to keep Walcavich at bay. By the press table, young spectators who had been watching him warm up were very vocal in their support of Wolfe and their marvel at his size. Out of nowhere, however, Wolfe was sent to the canvas by a right hook from a falling backwards Walcavich. Wolfe was able to continue and went immediately back to barraging Walcavich, who was back on his heels, as he was throughout the fight.
Suddenly and unexpectedly Wacavich ducked a blow from Wolfe and delivered a massive uppercut to Wolfe who was sent nearly out of the ring by the punch, the sound of which echoed off the wall behind the press table.
After the event several spectators told Madison365 that was the most memorable moment of the night and it illustrated the excitement that Bob Lynch Foundation President Andrea Nelson has committed to delivering.
Nelson told Madison365 she was thrilled with the turnout and that all of the feedback they have gotten about the event has been positive. It was the first time that Madison has hosted a Golden Gloves tournament.
Nelson said she hopes people will follow the athletes’ progress in nationals and that next year they plan to do Golden Gloves even bigger than it was this year. If Saturday’s event is any indication, Nelson has succeeded in her quest to revitalize the sport here in Wisconsin.