Chicago Golden Gloves

March 10, 2010 10:05:17 AM PST
What does boxing legend Muhammad Ali have in common with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Michael Flately, the Lord of the Irish Dance? They are all former Chicago Golden Gloves boxing champions.

Since 1923, the Chicago Golden Gloves has been one of Chicago's great sporting traditions. In the past 80 plus years, Golden Gloves has produced professional boxing champs including Ali (known then as Cassius Clay), Joe Louis and Sonny Liston. The boxing program has nurtured many Olympic boxers including LeeRoy Murphy ('80), Montel Griffin ('92), Donnell Nicholson ('92), Nate Jones ('96), David Diaz ('96), Michael Bennett ('00). And it has given a competitive edge to those who have gone on to careers in the arts (dancer Flately) and politics (Blagojevich, former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan and DuPage County States Attorney Joe Birkett.

Now a new group of boxers from 16 to 34 years old will be entering the ring in the 2010 Golden Gloves tournament beginning Thursday, March 11. The 12-night tournament runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights over four weeks in March and April. More than 350 boxers from Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana will compete. Twelve to 24 bouts fare held nightly at 7:30 pm at St. Andrew's Gym, 1658 W. Addison, in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood. Championship bouts are scheduled on April 8, 9 and 10.

Chicago Golden Gloves Charities believes that training in boxing instills a sense of self-respect and accomplishment in the youth of our community who, at this impressionable age, are choosing their path in life. Thousands of young men, and now some young women, have learned discipline, self-esteem and how to realize goals through daily training at various boxing clubs throughout the greater Chicago area.

Among this year's Golden Gloves competitors will be bantamweight Tiffany Perez of Hammond and heavyweight Robert Jekabson of Chicago. Both among the Golden Gloves elite, they hope to qualify for the Olympic Boxing team. Women boxers will be competing in the 2012 Olympics for the first time, Tiffany hopes to be one of those pioneers.

Tiffany, who's 20, is a college student and three-time Bantamweight Open Division Chicago Golden Gloves champion. She's won the tournament's "Best Overall Boxer" award as well as the overall "Tough Guy" award. Barely 5 feet tall and about 119 pounds, Tiffany was a finalist in the Miss Puerto Rico of Northwest Indiana pageant. She began boxing because her brother boxes and now is rated in the top 10 of her weight class by USA Boxing.

Robert, who is 22, works as a boxing instructor at the East Bank. He's a returning Heavyweight Open Division Champion, winning his title in 2008. Robert was born to be a champion. His mother was an Olympic rower for the USSR who missed the Games due to the Los Angeles boycott. His father was a member of the USSR boxing team who became a Lutheran priest. Both parents fled the repressive Soviet regime in what is now Latvia. The 6'2" heavyweight is also a top rated boxer by USA Boxing.

Revenue from Chicago's annual tournament is used to send the eleven Open Division champions on an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the National Golden Gloves Tournament held each May in different cities. Every four years, the winners of nationals earn berths in the US Olympic Trials. For many boxers, it's their first trip out of Chicago and one that they certainly couldn't afford to attend without complete financial assistance.

Chicago Golden Gloves Charities provides college scholarships to worthy boxers and donates equipment to local gyms and the Chicago Park District. Boxers have been awarded all-expense-paid trips for team competitions in Ireland, England and other international locales.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $50. For schedules and tickets, visit Tickets are available at the door beginning at 6 pm on event nights. Championship events regularly sell out so advance ticket purchase is recommended.

This year, Tiffany, Robert and other boxers are tweeting their way through training and the tournament. Follow them here: In addition, the tournament organizers will be giving away tickets, announcing Tweet Ups and tweeting news links via

Former Chicago Golden Gloves Champions

Barney Ross ('29)
Joe Louis ('34)
Ezzard Charles ('39)
Sonny Liston ('53)
Ernie Terrell ('57)
Cassius Clay ('59, '60) later known as Muhammad Ali
US Olympians from Chicago (since 1980): LeeRoy Murphy ('80), Montel Griffin ('92), Donnell Nicholson ('92), Nate Jones ('96), David Diaz ('96), Michael Bennett ('00)
Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
Former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan
DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett
Tommy Zibikowski- Notre Dame & Baltimore Ravens football
Michael "The Lord of the Dance" Flatley


  • The 2010 tournament runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in March beginning March 11th. Championship bouts are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 8, 9 and 10.

  • At least a dozen bouts (and sometimes as many as 24 bouts per night) are contested nightly beginning at 7:30 pm at St. Andrews, 1658 W. Addison in Chicago.

  • During 2008 and 2009, 350+ boxers competed, both male and female, between the ages of 16-34. There are usually 20-30 female entries.

  • 2009 attendance was up 25%. During 2009, nearly 15,000 fans attended the tournament. The three nights of championship bouts regularly sell out with standing room only availability.

  • Both the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois contribute annual proclamations which are printed in the Championship program.

  • With adult admission just $10 for preliminary event evenings and $15 for quarter and semi-final competitions, the Golden Gloves is an affordable sporting event.

  • Because of its great sporting tradition, the tourney was profiled over 4 pages in Sports Illustrated magazine on April 5, 2004. Included were a fascinating history of the tourney and a photo of boxing legend Joe Louis in his Chicago Golden Gloves Championship uniform.

  • For the first time, four working members of the Chicagoland media agreed to train for the 2009 tourney. They began to document their first-hand training experiences in print, on-line and in blogs. This is resulted in positive press coverage and amusing, insightful first person reporting. However, none of them actually competed. Training proved to be too rigorous.