Saturday, January 22, 2000

Spinney boxing center proposed

LaRosa asks city for old Bengals site

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Part of the Bengals' Spinney Field practice site may become a center for amateur boxing tournaments, if Buddy LaRosa and his Golden Gloves board of directors get their way.

        They want to showcase the city's boxers and hold events that would raise money to support Golden Gloves.

        “It (the boxing facility) won't cost the city anything,” Mr. LaRosa said. “It will all be private money.”

        He didn't give an estimate of a dollar amount.

        The space at Spinney would be provided free to Golden Gloves, and it would be up to Mr. LaRosa to build the boxing center and equip it.

        The role of the Cincinnati city administration is to come up with a plan for the use of Spinney, which the Bengals will be departing this year for their new riverfront practice facility.

        If a majority of city council (five votes) doesn't like the administration's plan, it can reject the plan and have the administration implement a different one.

        Last April, five members of city council — Paul Booth, Minette Cooper, Charlie Winburn, James Tarbell and Jeanette Cissell (who wasn't re-elected) — passed a motion directing the city manager to encourage the Cincinnati Recreation Commission to provide about 8,000 square feet of “complimentary and permanent space” at Spinney for an amateur boxing center.

        A subsequent correspondence to the city manager from Wayne Bain, director of the recreation commission, indicates CRC is “reviewing the possible uses” of the buildings and grounds.

        A boxing area is listed among those possible uses, but so are a fitness center, sports medicine facility, youth football, educational training, and com munity organization and recreation.

        Mr. Bain could not be reached for comment Friday.

        Councilman Tarbell said he likes Mr. LaRosa's idea, but noted he didn't know of CRC's long-range plan.

        “Buddy has a nice record of supporting community youth programs and it seems like a nice tie-in,” Mr. Tarbell said.

        Councilwoman Cooper said much the same thing.

        “I'm open to the idea,” she said. “Boxing is a sport that helps train people and develop discipline and keeps them active and out of trouble. Mr. LaRosa has done a lot for this community, helping people to lift their lives. With no specifics, it (a boxing center) sounds good ... (but) we'll have to consider it all.”

        Mr. LaRosa said he needs about 10,000 square feet of space to build the arena/gym large enough to accommodate the people who would attend Golden Glove shows, including national events.

        “It will be a value in the entertainment area,” Mr. LaRosa said. “If you go to a (Bengals) football game, you know what you have to spend. Having (Spinney) also provides a safe environment to go see these bouts. Right now, we don't have such a facility.”

        Mr. LaRosa's goal is to re-establish city championships in the 12 weight classes. Those local championships fell by the wayside back in the 1940s, he said.

        Mr. LaRosa has four Golden Gloves gyms — Mt. Auburn, Millvale, Norwood and Winton Terrace — but nothing large enough to host a big-time amateur event with potential to attract a large audience.

        A major Golden Gloves fund-raiser is planned for the fall — a testimonial to Mr. LaRosa — and the money will go toward keeping his work alive in the inner-city through his amateur boxing program.

        “Hey, I'm almost 70 years old,” Mr. LaRosa said. “Not that I'm expecting not to be here that much longer, but we want to keep the program alive and well.”

        The proposed boxing center would hold Golden Glove tournaments on the local, regional and national levels. In turn, the money raised from these shows would be pumped back into the program, including paying for the traveling expenses of Cincinnati's boxers to out-of-town tournaments.

        Mr. LaRosa used to operate a bingo in Evendale with the proceeds going to Golden Gloves, but the casino business in Indiana lured a lot of people away, he said.

        There are presently about 125 active boxers in the four gyms, said Gloria Morgan, an adviser to Golden Gloves.

        Professional boxing has taken a dive in popularity because of shady promoters, the dearth of high-quality talent and the violence of the sport. Amateur boxing is a different breed, with a governing body, strict rules and protective equipment.

        “There's no comparison between the two, but yes, the perception on the part of the average person is that boxing is boxing,” Mr. LaRosa said. “But amateur boxing is an art form. There is a lot of honor and pride in the competition, just like the martial arts.”

        The proposed boxing center at Spinney Field would also be used as a gym for the youth of lower Price Hill, Mr. LaRosa said.

        Mr. LaRosa has a gem from a bygone era that would be the centerpiece of the proposed boxing center: the boxing ring used by such former Cincinnati world champions as Ezzard Charles and Wallace (Bud) Smith during their bouts at Cincinnati Gardens.

        Mr. LaRosa's Golden Gloves gyms have the nation's No.-1-ranked amateur boxer in the 139-pound weight class (Ricardo Williams Jr.), the No.2-ranked contender in the 119-pound class (Gerald Tucker) and the No.7 at 147 (Dante Craig).

        Messrs. Williams, Craig and Tucker are all boxing in the U.S. Olympic trials in Tampa in early February. David Long, another highly ranked boxer, is one of six Cincinnatians who traveled to Scranton, Pa., this weekend, for USA Boxing's Eastern Regionals. The winners there will box at the Tampa trials.

        Golden Gloves are also active in the junior ranks. Last weekend, all 10 Cincinnatians, ages 8 to 15, who traveled to Dayton won state Silver Gloves championships, Ms. Morgan said.

        Nine of them traveled to Lexington, Ky., this weekend for the regional Silver Gloves. (The 10th state champion has strep throat.) The winners in Lexington advance to Lexna, Kansas, next month to box for national championships.


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