Each year, when the semifinals of the New York Golden Gloves rolls around, the Electric Industry Center in Flushing, Queens hosts a night of boxing. It’s hands down my favorite Gloves venue.
I can speak with some authority on this as over the years I’ve taken in action, from prelims to the finals, at no less than twenty-five venues throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Long Island.
The Electric Industry Center usually serves as a union hall for local electricians. The 1000 plus folks that packed the hall the other night were primarily Irish- and Italian-American workers from outfits like Con Edison. Needless to say, the lighting was HBO-worthy, second only to the set-up they’ve got at MSG.
A line formed around the block well-over an hour before the doors opened at 8 PM. You needed pull to land a ticket. Along with the blue-collar crowd downing copious amounts of Bud, there was also a rich assortment of upper middle-aged men with immaculately coifed hair à la Silvio Dante from The Sopranos. On their thick fingers they sported diamond-encrusted pinkie rings that sparkled under the choice lighting.
Knowing what a hot ticket the semis at the Electric always is, the Gloves’ organizers stack the card with talent. At this point in the tournament, the comically bad boxers have long since been eliminated; only decent local pugs remained. But let’s be honest here, if allowed to chose, would you rather watch the women’s 105-pounders or the Open men’s 141’s, 165’s, 178’s, 201’s, and super heavies? The latter was on display in Flushing.
The jnr. welters were generally quick and well-schooled. The light heavies and above featured some formidable sluggers, who put on rousing performances. But anyone who follows the amateur scene, or peruses the sports section of the NY Daily News—a long-time sponsor of the tournament—was especially excited about a 20-year-old middleweight named Daniel Jacobs.
The 6-foot Jacobs supposedly started boxing as recently as 2001, but began winning major national titles within two years. He now has seven national titles to his credit and is the American most often cited as our best hope for gold in Beijing. Comparisons are being made to Mark Breland, arguably the greatest amateur to come out of NYC. (In fairness, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist Breland had sickening power in his right hand that Jacobs can’t claim. But Danny may be the more complete fighter of the two.)
A lot can happen between now and the Olympic awards ceremony and Danny, as he is known, is not bulletproof; he got stopped by Russian Matvey Korobovin at the 2005 World Cup. But I’ve seen enough with my own to say…I had to rub them to make sure I was seeing clearly.
Numerous times he has humiliated the best pros at Gleason’s Gym. Footwork, speed, good power, wicked body shots, imaginative combinations, a nice jab, and crafty veteran moves —it’s all there. Of course, there are no sure things in boxing. But what’s the point if you can’t get hyperbolic about that special talent that comes along once in a blue moon? Just don’t pull a Max Kellerman and fixate on a flawed, chinless character like Zab Judah.
To no one’s surprise, Jacobs outclassed (5-0 decision) his opponent Omar Artis. How could Artis be expected to compete when Jacobs easily holds his own with his (professional) Starrett City Gym stablemates—Luis Collazo (27-3), Curtis Stevens (17-1), Jaidon Codrington (15-1), Joe Greene (14-0), Gary Stark Jnr. (18-1), and a host of top-ranked amateurs.
The Golden Gloves finals will be held the Theater at Madison Square Garden over the course of two evenings on April 19th and 20th. Jacobs will be facing Phillip Jackson-Benson, no softy but not a fighter recognized on the national landscape.
BN will be offering broader coverage of the finals, and more on the promising career of Danny Jacobs.