On July 30, Gladiators Gym in Ardmore is sending a group of boxers to the top amateur tournament in the country.
Six boxers will compete at the 12th Annual Ringside World Championships in Kansas City, Mo. from July 30-Aug. 5 at the Kansas City International Expo Center. There will be more than 1,000 amateur bouts over four days.
In those fights lies the chance for several of the Ardmore-based boxers to make their mark.
“It’s noteworthy to win it,” Gladiators Gym owner Garry Raymond said of the Ringside tournament. “We have four fighters that this tournament will be significant for. We’re working with kids ready to make the transition from the amateurs to the pros.”
Those four fighters: Brandon Douglas, Tony Cruz, Lionel Jimenez and Chris Mullins, are each looking to take that next step.
Douglas, 19, of Oklahoma City, brings the most amateur experience of the four fighters with professional aspirations. The 132-pounder will be competing in his second Ringside tournament, and has an amateur record of 23-8 with eight knockouts.
Tony Cruz, 18, of Beville, Texas, also has Ringside experience from 2008. He’ll enter this year’s tournament as a 141 pounder with a record of 18-6 with six knockouts.
Cruz stumbled upon Gladiators Gym when he relocated from Texas.
“When I first moved up here, I was just going around looking for a gym,” Cruz said. “I was looking for a gym, found a gym, got settled down here and started up boxing again.”
Douglas’ former coach, Glen Leshore of Badlands Gym in Oklahoma City, is an old friend of Raymond’s. Leshore recommended Douglas to Raymond as an up-and-coming fighter.
“He (Leshore) put in a good word for me, told (Raymond) I was real coachable,” Douglas said. “He decided to give me a chance down here and it’s been real good; He’s a real good coach."
Both Douglas and Cruz, each in their fifth year of boxing, said they could go pro within the next year.
“They wanted to go to an event like this before turning pro,” Raymond said. “I’m pretty optimistic about these kids.”
Optimism even shines in two 10-year-olds competing in their first tournament. Amiya Howard and Isaac Raymond-Brown, Garry’s grandson, are competing in their first Ringside event, the youngest representatives of Gladiators Gym.
Raymond-Brown said he’s going to Kansas City to “learn how to box.” He’s been to the Ringside tournament before, but only as a spectator.
Howard, who’s only been boxing for about a month, is looking to gain experience in Kansas City. Howard said she’s improved a lot since the start of her training.
“It’s hard,” Howard admitted. “But getting in the ring and getting to spar is fun.”
Ardmore High School alumnus and Gladiators Gym trainer Jerry Biggers Jr. has worked with all of the fighters for about two months leading up to the Ringside tournament.
“I think we have an excellent group,” Biggers said. “A lot of the kids are in shape, which is what it takes. They have a lot of experience between the six of them. The young ones are a little less experienced, but they’re picking up pretty quick as well.”
Biggers said the endurance of his older fighters has improved massively in the time he’s worked with them.
“They are able to go a lot longer,” he said. “Round-wise, they are able to go a lot more, and that’s what it takes: to be able to have the tenacity and endurance for three rounds.
“I think these guys have worked hard enough to be able to do that.”
Mullins, who lives in Madill, is 1-2 as an amateur, but says he’ll be more ready for Ringside than he was at the start of his career in April.
“I was kinda blown away by the whole aura, the atmosphere — these amateur fighters who I followed, watched on videos on YouTube; guys with over 150 fights,” said Mullins, 28. “Now, knowing what to expect, I can stay more focused.”
Erik K. Horne