The Daily News Golden Gloves tournament is one of the most prestigious amateur sporting events in the world.
To win the coveted Golden Gloves necklace is an extraordinary feat, an accomplishment that few achieve.
“It was the proudest moment of my life, walking through my neighborhood with the Golden Gloves around my neck,” Tommy Gallagher once said of winning the Daily News Golden Gloves in 1959.
The News launched the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame in 2014 to help keep alive the memories of those who only had dreams of being mentioned in the same breath as boxing legends like Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Patterson and Mark Breland.
The majority of these young men and women do not go on to compete on a professional level; instead they use the Golden Gloves as a measuring stick for self-control and self-respect.
The Hall of Fame is still in its early years, which means there are a wealth of boxers who need to be acknowledged. “It’s special because it’s new. We’re still in the cream of the crop,” said Bruce Silverglade, a member of the selection committee. “These are the best of the best over the course of 90 years. These are some really meaningful awards.”
The inaugural class was easy to identify — the names are proof: Robinson, Patterson and Breland, Howard Davis Jr., Lou Salica, Nick and Pete Spanakos, Vince Shomo, Davey Vasquez, Sean Daughtry, Jean Martin and Ronald McCall.
Breland is impressed by the breadth of different styles that fighters display in the tournament.
“You have guys who were very crafty boxers, knockout artists, guys who were slick, it’s something where they should be known for what they’ve done,” said Breland. “It meant a lot to me to be inducted because it’s something people can see later on.”
“It meant the world to me to be inducted with all these great fighters. It was a great honor,” said Martin. “I thought people had forgotten about me, and that it was over with and long done with. To be called back seven years later, I was like, ‘Wow, people remember me.’ I can’t believe it. It’s nice to know that what you accomplished in the past will be remembered in the future.”
This year’s Golden Gloves title fights will be held Friday at Hammerstein Ballroom and Saturday at Aviator Sports and Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be inducted in the ring Friday night between bouts.
“To be honored and to be put into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame is an amazing experience. To be acknowledged with those great fighters is remarkable,” said two-time Gloves champ and pro heavyweight Gerry Cooney. “It’s a big honor. The ceremony is during a Golden Gloves night, so not only to see the guys coming up after you, but also to see the guys who were before your time and during your time — it’s a nice feather in our caps to have had those experiences.”
“The Hall of Fame gives the audience a chance to share those memories,” said Golden Gloves Director Brian Adams.
“It’s to send a message to the next generation. Professional boxing has suffered because a lot of the young kids don’t stick around and work on their craft in the amateurs. They don’t build their name. They win one or two tournaments and then they turn pro. They don’t get a chance to establish themselves. Maybe the Hall of Fame will entice kids to stay around a little longer. If you win three, four, or five titles there’s a greater chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Adams said.
“The ceremony gives them a chance to be recognized. It’s amazing,” added Golden Gloves Historian Bill Farrell. “To have that recognition is a symbol that they were worthy of this. They climb up those steps and climb through those ropes and come into the center of the ring, are introduced and presented with a Hall of Fame robe and their plaque. To be under the lights again, that’s what they live for. It’s one more moment for them to treasure and reflect. It puts it all in a bow.”
In these pages, meet some of the great champions of the past — the Daily News Golden Gloves Hall of Fame Class of 2017.