TACOMA GOLDEN GLOVES TURNS 70 Championship night sparkles at UPS

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The Tacoma Golden Gloves boxing tournament is the second-longest running event of its kind in the United States. The first event took place in 1949, featuring “Irish” Pat McMurtry. Tacoma Boxing Club’s Taylor Shirley (left) was too much for Julian May, stopping him in the second round and claiming the 178-pound title for the Tacoma Boxing Club. Photo by Rocky Ross

Walking into the University of Puget Sound’s Memorial Fieldhouse still feels like a trip to the past. Even with the upgrades over the years, it still has an old feel to it, and that mystique is something that cannot be manufactured. For years, the Fieldhouse has hosted the finals of the Tacoma Golden Gloves tournament and this year’s version was extra special.

It was 1949 when “Irish” Pat McMurtry fought at the very first Tacoma Golden Gloves. He would go on to be one of the finest professional boxers of his era. Meanwhile, the Tacoma Athletic Commission continued to host the boxing tournament to great success at a few different locations around the City of Destiny over what has amounted to 70 years now.

Rolando Epting (right) topped Trevor Arrotta for the 123-pound title. Photo by Rocky Ross

A solid crowd was on hand for the 12-bout affair on Saturday, Jan. 27. While the popularity of boxing has taken some serious hits in recent years due to the rise of mixed martial arts, there is still a large pool of fans out there that love the “sweet science” enough to rally on a wet, Puget Sound night and take in three hours of fisticuffs.

The first fight of the night would pit Renzehl Velasco against Mario Guzman. Since Velasco had already been awarded the 108-pound championship due to a lack of opposition, it was a match bout between two weight classes. Over my nearly four years of covering boxing, it was easily the best opening bout of the night I have ever witnessed. Both fighters went at it as if a trip to the Olympics was on the line. In the end, Velasco would score the victory, but both fighters had already won the crowd over, which is no easy feat.

Hang Thao fell short and takes one in the chops against Greg Cruz in the 132-pound bout. Photo by Rocky Ross

Up next was the only female bout of the night and it was another match bout between two champions of different weight classes. Jacqueline Luna had already been awarded the 119-pound championship, while Jacqueline Ines had secured the 125-pound title. The weight difference between the two didn’t seem like much when the two fighters went toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring. As a matter of fact, the two boxers were fine examples of just how far women’s boxing has come over the decades. These two were polished fighters looked every bit as skilled as their male counterparts. In the end, Ines would outpoint Luna for a well-earned victory.

The third fight of the night was the first championship bout. Trevor Arrotta would face Rolando Epting for the 123-pound title. It was a top-notch matchup. When Epting knocked Arrotta’s head gear off in the second round, it felt as though there was a shift in the fight toward Epting, and he wouldn’t let go of it until the final bell. Arrotta showed quite a bit of heart as he weathered a serious storm of punches from the eventual champion.

Jacqueline Ines (right) topped Jacqueline Luna in a 125-pound bout. Photo by Rocky Ross

Up next was the 132-pound championship bout. Greg Cruz would face Hang Thao and it looked as though it was a mismatch when the fighters were introduced. Cruz looked to have a huge reach and height advantage over Thao, which could spell trouble for the University of Washington fighter. While Cruz used his reach advantage from the opening bell, Thao fought like a cornered, junkyard dog. As a matter of fact, Thao actually began picking up the pace toward the end of the fight, but it was already too late. Cruz would win the championship. Thao would later be awarded the Pat McMurtry Most-Inspirational prize, due to his exceptional grit.

The fifth fight of the night was between Nino Delgado and Austin Mariscal for the 141-pound title. It was all Delgado in the early going, as he looked a bit faster than his opponent. By the second round, Mariscal had picked up the pace and the bout began to take fine shape. The third round opened with a flurry by both fighters, but Mariscal began to fade as the three minutes wore on. Delgado would take the championship.

Tacoma Boxing Club’s Ramy Hassan (right) captured the 201-pound title with the win over Rolando Montiel. Photo by Rocky Ross

Up next was a 152-pound semifinal bout between Vlad Dimitrovich and Jacob Kremer. This was a strange fight. Dimitrovich looked like the fight was his from the early going, but his activity began to wane over the next two rounds. Meanwhile, Kremer took advantage of the opportunity and snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat.

The seventh bout of the night was another 152-pound semifinal between Mauola Fasio and James Porter. At times, this bout looked more like a wrestling match as the two fighters would bull rush the other into the ropes. For a while it looked as though it would be anybody’s fight, but Porter came on strong at the end to take the win. Porter will face Kremer on Saturday, Feb. 17, with a ticket to the nationals in Las Vegas on the line.

The eighth and ninth bouts of the night were 165-pound semifinals. The first would pit Jimmy Kay against Jasper Bourgette. These two fighters left everything they had in the ring for their nine-minute war. By the end, Kay had been bloodied and looked ready to see the fight draw to a close. Bourgette would claim the victory.

The ninth fight was a solid contender for fight of the night. Sevarrian Ward would face Jesus Acosta in the other 165-pound semifinal, and the two fighters had entered the ring to win it all. This fight was easily the closest of the night. Ward looked sharp, while Acosta countered with a healthy dose of determination. By fight’s end, I couldn’t have picked a winner myself. Ward would take the victory and will now face Kremer with a Vegas trip on the line.

Up next was the first representative of the Tacoma Boxing Club. Taylor Shirley would face Julian May for the 178-pound championship, and the bout was a bit of a mismatch. While it was clear that May was a solid, gifted fighter, there was no way he was going to be able to match the thunder that Shirley was dishing out with his gloves. May’s corner threw in the towel midway through the second round and it was a very wise choice. Shirley was probably going to put May on the canvas by the end of the fight, and that’s not necessarily the goal in amateur boxing.

The 201-pound championship bout would match Ramy Hassan from the Tacoma Boxing Club against Rolondo Montiel. From the start of the fight, Hassan looked like the better fighter. With this out there, Montiel began clutching onto Hassan as much as possible, while trying to get some work done on the inside. It wouldn’t work. By the end of the third round, Hassan would claim the victory over his bloodied and battered opponent.

The last bout of the night was a bit odd. Tacoma Boxing Club’s Ramel Clasablanca would face Richard Bauer for the heavyweight championship. While Clasablanca was the returning champ, Bauer looked like he had come straight from the weight room, as the fighter was built like a muscle-bound tank. The defending champion made short work of Bauer, who was clearly outclassed. The referee stepped in and called the fight in the second round, and it probably saved Bauer a trip to the canvas. Clasablanca would also be named the Tacoma Athletic Commission’s “Golden Boy” of the tournament, in honor of former TAC President Morris “Mr. Mac” McCollum.

The Tacoma Golden Gloves tournament is now the second-longest running event of its kind in the United States. If this year’s action is any indicator of what is in store next year, fight fans should already be making plans for the 71st edition next winter.

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