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Opening Bell Set to Ring for Gloves

January 8, 2019
Opening night of the 2017 Greater Lowell Golden Gloves. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- The first things you need to know about the 73rd annual Greater Lowell and Central New England Golden Gloves Tournament are the dates.

For the first time in history, the Gloves will be held strictly on Thursday nights this winter.

Beginning this Thursday, Jan. 10, the fights will take place every Thursday through March 7.

The preliminary bouts are set for Jan. 10-Feb. 7. The New England Novice Tournament of Champions will be held Feb. 14 and 21. And the New England Open Tournament of Champions will be held on successive Thursday nights, Feb. 28 and March 7.

Back in the day, the Lowell tourney used to be held almost exclusively on Tuesdays, but in recent years Thursday and Friday cards have been thrown into the mix, sometimes causing confusion among Gloves fans. The Tournament off Champions has always been held on consecutive nights.

Now it’s easy to remember: Thursday is Fight Night. The first punch is thrown at 7:30 p.m.

“Every year we start over with a new year, new ideas,” said Tournament Director Bob Russo. “As far as the New Englands go, the semifinals historically have been a little off, attendance-wise. When you put them on back-to-back nights people tend to say they’ll just go to the next one. So we’ll try this and see how it works.”

Legends of the ring

The history of the Golden Gloves in Lowell is rich, beginning with Rocky Marciano in the 1940s and including the likes of Marvin Hagler, Marlon Starling, John Ruiz, Mike Tyson, Vinny Pazienza, John Scully and, of course, Lowell’s own world champion, Micky Ward.

But the true strength of the Golden Gloves isn’t the great professional champs who have passed through, but the tough, gritty, everyday fighters who make up the bulk of the tournament, and without whom there would be no Gloves.

Some may be fighting in front of a boisterous crowd for the first time, others for the 10th time, but the courage they show just to slip through the ropes, hear the crowd noise and respond to the opening bell can not be overstated.

Ward would concur with that statement.

“You have to live in your own skin,” said Ward on Monday, when asked what advice he would give to young rookie boxers. “You’re out there for yourself, you’re not out there to impress anyone else.”

Ward won a Lowell Novice title in 1981 at the age of 15, a year younger than the minimum age limit for the tournament (we won’t tell if you won’t). He won the New England Opens the next year by beating the defending champion, then won a few more championships before turning pro in 1985.

“I was a little nervous that first year because it was my hometown,” said Ward. “The pressure’s on you to do good.

“But as long as you’re in your best shape there’s nothing to worry about. Boxing is all preparation and mental attitude. If you’re not ready before you step into the ring, it’s too late.”

Who will be prepared this year? Which local talent will make it all the way? Nobody knows, but it’s always fun to find out.

Follow Dennis Whitton on Twitter @DAWhitton

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