(Photos by Robert Doyle)
I got to cover the 2012 Golden Gloves finals with someone who is part of the history of the Gloves, which, by the way, is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. So I’m at what used to be called the Felt Forum with one Dennis Doyle, who was a finalist in the Golden Gloves in 1977 and in 1980 took the silver at the Empire State Games (Buddy McGirt was his teammate), destroyed everyone and wasn’t allowed to fight in the final fight because of a perforated eardrum.
He tells me, when we’re in the Blarney Rock on 33rd before the fight, that in his first Golden Gloves fight (back then they didn’t wear headgear and all the fights were at the Garden) he knocked out his challenger, a butcher, in the 2nd round with an overhand right. Knocked him out cold. The fight was also televised and Floyd Patterson was calling the shots. “I was terrified; he was 26 and I was just a kid,” Doyle says. “He throws a punch and I throw an overhand right, and then I’m standing in the neutral corner, and I see this microphone coming down from the ceiling, and have no idea why. And my eyes follow it down, and I’m looking at my opponent. The guy’s flat on the canvas, unconscious. I could feel that punch when I threw it; I felt it down my arm, down my side all the way to my feet.”
Doyle, who is now both a commercial jet captain for corporate planes ferrying the rich and famous, and an operating engineer (Local 14) on the big tower cranes in the city, was trained in the day by John Capobianco, a heavyweight who passed away last October. John Doyle, Dennis’ father used to train them. Doyle also relates how he flew Keith Richards up to Canada in a Lear Jet. I don’t quite believe it until he shows me a photo of him with Richards in the cabin of the plane. Then, in a surreal moment, Dr. Adal M. Hussain, (Phd.) covering the fight for something called World Liberty Television — who hadn’t overheard our conversation as he was talking to Dennis Doyle’s brother Robert — hands over his BlackBerry. There’s a photo of him with Mick Jagger.
The first fight, Alicia Napoleon and Nafisa Umarova go at it with zeal for the 154 pound novice division. Napoleon is the clear favorite here, with the crowds going at it for her. Doyle: “The girl in the blue (Napoleon) is gonna win this. I saw it in her face. I could be wrong.” Doyle points out that it’s about points. “A knockdown counts the same as a punch,” he says.
Umarova, a southpaw, begins winning in the 2nd. In the 3rd Umarova takes over with some serious straights that won points. It’s a good fight. Dennis Doyle is shouting for uppercuts, because Umarova seems to be coming in with straights. Napoleon scores before the fight is stopped for a headgear readjustment. Now the audience is going insane because of the standing eight count. Dennis Doyle is yelling, and the crowd behind me is yelling, “Let them fight.” The guy to my left, a physician, is saying that the press row shouldn’t be yelling. I whisper over to Dennis, “Uh, I think they are getting upset, I guess we aren’t supposed to take sides.” Now Doyle is overcompensating. He has his hands folded in front of him: “I’m not going to express any emotions. But it’s just great to be back here after 35 years.”
Fight two and Jonathan Jimenez fights James Dery at 123 lbs., a novice fight. “Novice is first time. Open means they’ve been in the gloves at least once before,” Doyle explains. I knew that. Dery is in the gold corner, for what it’s worth. They have to wait. Dery starts fast, looks to be 15 years old, but he’s wild, while Jimenez is technical, a fact that Doyle says makes the difference. Indeed, Jimenez is punching with resounding blows you can hear, while Dery’s punches….
“Look at him punch. He’s punching with his feet set, throws more combinations, uppercuts,” Doyle says of Jimenez. “I think they’ll stop it by the 3rd round.” They didn’t but Jimenez wins with huge body shots. “You want to hurt a guy? Everyone’s a headhunter,” says Doyle. “Guy who goes to the body like that? Very smart.”
Anthony Pegues versus Luis Rivera 178 lbs, open division, is next. This fight is fought while Doyle was off getting us beers. The bout is a boilerplate on how to fight going backwards, as Pegues is the more effective fighter, though constantly on the ropes.
Doyle is back. He turns back to the VIP rows and shakes Mark Breland’s hand. “Doyle,” he says in introduction. Breland seems to remember him. I ask him why. “He was my same weight class the following year of the Gloves,” says Doyle. “And I knew him when I fought in the Empire State Games in ’80, when McGirt was my stablemate.” Doyle recounts an occurrence with McGirt. “We’re dorming in the rooms, and two of the guys got eliminated, so I invited my brother and another guy to take the room. My friend had a pair of glasses on the counter,” he says. “Of course fighters don’t wear glasses, so Buddy comes in, says, Dennis, who’s f&#@*ng the blind girl.”
Chad Trabuscio, versus Jose Cales, Novice at 132 lbs. proves to be a great fight. I can’t tell who’s winning. Doyle says the kid in yellow is getting tired, “But I’d give it to the guy in blue so far.” He also makes the very interesting point that years ago the corner guys could advise the fighters at the Gloves. “My coach used to give me signals, I’d listen. One of the most important things when you’re fighting is you have no concept of time, right? So my coach had these audible signals, he’d make, and when I was half way, thirty seconds then ten, I knew it,” he says. “And that meant the world to me because the judges are watching what you do in the last ten seconds of the round. Now they don’t let the corner on the ropes, now they don’t allow you on the ring.”
One of the better fights of the evening is the fifth bout at 141 lbs. It may have been the best, but I missed it because my wife, hysterical, in tears, calls to yell at me about the fact that I’d taken my computer charger to the fight, which she desperately needed to finish her paper. The hell was I supposed to do? Meanwhile, Doyle has just returned after having gone over to talk to Tony Danza who evidently showed him a picture of his granddaughter. This makes me feel old.
Bout six, Patrick Day (should his handle be “saint”?) versus Christopher Galeano at 152 lbs. Day is a big deal. But in the 1st Galeano is doing well. Galeano is doing very well against Day, landing the more effective punches to my and Doyle’s eyes. Galeano is the more aggressive fighter here, as well. It will be a controversial score any way it goes. Day wins it, and that pleases the Day-friendly crowd.
The seventh bout (Dennis Doyle has vanished to who knows where so I’m on my own) and Bertha Aracil fights Storm Chandler at 132 lbs. It’s a hell of a fight. Doyle’s brother, Robert, who is a former motorcycle racer is also here and he’s now commenting that I look like Ray Charles, bobbing back and forth as I type. “What the f#%@& are you writing?” he asks. Well, the two of them have been buying me beers and Macaellen shots all night, so it’s no surprise. Storm wins it.
Now the best fight of the evening is in the offing, or the general buzz seems to promise as much. The neurologist to my left says Joe Williams is a power puncher, while Max Tassy is a boxer. They are heavyweights, fighting at 201 lbs. open division. After the 1st round, Tassy’s corner (and Tassy is the clear favorite) is shrieking that Williams is pushing with his elbows, illegally roughing up Tassy. Williams dominates the fight from sheer bullheaded aggression, landing most of the big shots, though in the last round Tassy seems to knock Williams down, though it is ruled a slip. Williams wins; no surprise.
Well, the general buzz isn’t always accurate. The best fight of the night is the ninth, with Mauricio Sandoval versus Dharmendra Anjiloi (say that five times) at 114 lbs. The 1st round, they’re slugging shot for shot, wild looping punches that had the crowd dashing back from the bathrooms and wet bar. Doyle is back, and between rounds he tells me about his fight in Shirley, N.Y. for the divisional championship of the Empire State Games. “I’m fighting and the guy throws a left that lands right on my glove. It dislocates my thumb. I’m in agony. I know something bad’s happened,” he says. “Between rounds I say to my coach, ‘I think I hurt my hand.’ He takes off my glove, and my thumb — I swear to you — is up near my wrist. It was completely dislocated. He slaps tape on it and I fight that round, and win it. But I was scheduled to fight another one half an hour later. So he took my thumb, and he pulled it back into place. And I fought the next one, and every time I hit the guy if felt like my hand was on fire.”
Anthony Merete, versus Jeremy Humphrey out of Gleason’s, a novice bout at 117 lbs. And I think this may actually, truly, be the best fight of the night, as the two threw endlessly, and accurately. Humphrey, the much shorter fighter, wins it. By now, however, my judgment is no longer reliable. Doyle has bought me several beers and shots. But Doyle makes a point about how good the fighters are. “I’m very impressed with the overall skill level. It’s still really good. I saw a Golden Gloves final in another state (he doesn’t want to say which, but it’s in the Southwest). These were the finals, but the overall skill looked like the prelims in New York,” he says. “And you know what? Any kid that walks into the ring in the finals, win or lose has won in my opinion. They should all be proud. They’re all winners.”
(Dennis Doyle, at left, with the author)