A medal for the Golden GlovesPublished 10:05am Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Jon Laging
The other day I got a nice note from a 83-year-old gentlemen who had read my column on boxing in the Owatonna library. He said he had followed boxing intensely throughout his life, boxed Golden Gloves and had written a memoir. In it he described Owatonna’s Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. Harvey Ronglien was one of the wards and spent close to 10 years living at the home. His book’s title is “A Boy from C-11 Case No. 9164.” He can be reached at: P.O. Box 925, Owatonna, MN 55060
In his letter Ronglien said that Golden Gloves played a large role in his life and the other boys in the school. I imagine it was a way that he and others could prove that they were just as good as other boys and maybe better. He mentioned he had made the local finals, was knocked out by a boy who went on to the national finals, winning the first two rounds before breaking his hand.
My first version of “Boxing’s Decline” was harsher in my treatment of boxing. However, as much as I negated professional boxing, I got to thinking that the amateur Golden Gloves provided an avenue for young kids to better themselves. There comes a time when all young men and women try to prove themselves. It can come in many ways, standing up for someone, giving a speech or through sports. Many of us have experienced butterflies before playing in a sporting event or performing before an audience. I’m sure boxing may be more intense than most events and courage is needed to step into the ring against a worthy opponent and know you will get hurt. The state school boys did this, and I’m sure this courage and fortitude served them well the rest of their lives. Many state boys went on to have successful lives. Certainly Ronglien did as witness his book and his campaign to recognize his home of 10 years.
One other quick example of the positive aspect of Golden Gloves. My friend and classmate Dennis Johnson was a big rawboned guy. He was a terrible athlete. Johnson had no natural ability and if Michael Jordan and Mickey Mantle were natural athletes, Dennis was on the complete opposite end of the scale.
The Golden Gloves were coming to Mountain Lake and were looking for opponents for the visiting boxers. Johnson volunteered to fight in the heavyweight division. We tried to talk him out of it, feeling he had no business in the ring with an experienced opponent. Johnson insisted that he wanted to box, and we all came to watch the bout in the school gym.
The fights went as expected with the out-of-town boxers showing their experience and training. Finally came the heavyweight fight. Johnson’s opponent was a smooth muscled redhead. He came into the ring shadow boxing with a beautiful robe and real boxing shoes. Johnson showed up with shorts and tennis shoes with a towel wrapped around his neck. The bell rang, and Johnson came out of his corner like a furious windmill throwing dozens and dozens of punches. His opponent was stunned and overwhelmed and the referee called the bout for Johnson. It was a wonderful achievement for a non-athlete, and I’m sure played a role in his future life.
While I am no longer a fan of professional boxing, the Golden Gloves had their place.