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The strength of an Olympian. The agility of a gymnast. The stamina of a triathlete. The wits of a Chess master. Many sports boast having the world’s greatest athletes, but few actually are put to the test. One sport, though, combines the grace of “Swan Lake” and the carnage of a car crash. That sport is boxing.

The Iowa Golden Gloves has been around since 1938, providing young athletes with an alternative sport to help with social development as well as physical and emotional well being. National Golden Gloves of America Inc. has been around since the first bout — a Golden Gloves tournament in 1928. Since then the program has led the way in promoting amateur boxing in the United States. In fact, it has produced the majority of competitors for America’s boxing teams in the Pan-Am and Olympic Games.

De’Andre Harris, of Fort Dodge, battling Iowa Golden Gloves 2012 Championship, Kevin Cruz. De’Andre is one of many champions returning to defend his title this year.

De’Andre Harris, of Fort Dodge, battling Iowa Golden Gloves 2012 Championship, Kevin Cruz. De’Andre is one of many champions returning to defend his title this year.

“We have had some of our former boxers go on to become attorneys, judges, members of the House of Representatives, firemen, fire chief, policemen, school teachers and principals,” said Donald Avant Jr., four-time Iowa Golden Gloves Champion and president of Iowa Golden Gloves. “All from the foundation they got from Golden Gloves training. Hard work pays off.”

The mission of the Iowa Golden Gloves is to provide an active and safe environment for young, and especially at-risk, athletes. The program develops “individual athletic skills, work ethic, sportsmanship, discipline, self-respect and pride.” And while the athletes reap their rewards, the rest of us enjoy the ring-side thrill and witness the skills they are learning literally before our eyes.


This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Iowa Golden Gloves, and the 2013 Tournament of Champions looks to be a knock-out. Several featured fighters will return to defend their titles and pride including four-time champion Martin Schuh, of Fort Dodge, and last year’s champ DeAndre Harris.

“Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather all got their start in Golden Gloves,” Avant said. “Boxing is a sport that has made men out of boys.” 

About 80 men and women, ages 17 to 34, will compete in the tournament in one of two categories, Novice or Open. Novice features boxers who have been in 10 bouts or less, and the Open category takes on all kinds, no matter how many fights the athlete has seen. All amateur bouts are three rounds. Open boxers will have three two-minute rounds, while the Novice competitors will have three one-minute rounds. All athletes belong to USA Boxing.

In the end, the sport is more about what the athletes learn in Iowa Golden Gloves, not what you win.

“Sportsmanship is the main goal we are looking for, and we give out the John Connors sportsmanship trophy to the boxer that shows the most sportsmanship,” said Avant.

The discipline it takes to be a great boxer is the same that it takes to be a great individual. Strength, endurance, strategy, agility and improvisation are as important out of the ring as they are in the ring. CV              

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow. Whether he’s wandering the foothills of Scotland or the concrete prairie of Des Moines, this cinefile/journalist/gumshoe is always prepared with a pen in his pocket feverishly searching for that “perfect level of ridiculous that makes the absurd desirable.”


The Iowa Golden Gloves 2013 Tournament of Champions will take place April 12 – 13 at the Forte Banquet and Conference Center, 615 Third St., in Des Moines. Doors open at 6 p.m., and bouts start at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $15, reserved seats are $20.


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