Of the 300 or so amateur boxers competing for one of the 11 weight class titles at the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions this week, only five took home championships last year.
The reason for a seemingly low number of "defending" champions is simple, says Jim Beasley, executive director of Golden Gloves of America. Typically, a lot of top amateur boxers turn professional after the every-four-years Summer Olympics, and this is the first national tournament since last year's Games in Beijing, China.
"This will be an interesting year," Beasley said. "A lot of [weight classes] are wide open."
Is there a can't-miss prospect at this year's tournament -- one of those golden boys who seems destined for greatness?
Probably not, said Beasley and Troy Fullmer, Utah director of officials for USA Boxing. But the field is still deep and talented, and includes a lot of names familiar to ardent followers of the sport.
"Boxing fans are in for a treat," Beasley said. "Exciting [bouts] always happen. I've never walked away from a tournament and said, 'that was a bummer.' "
One of last year's champions, Colorado's Louie Byrd, was scheduled to fight Monday night in the 112-pound weight class, after winning the title at 106 last year in Grand Rapids, Mich., but drew a first-round bye and will fight Wednesday.
The other four returning champions -- Michigan's Ernesto Garza (119), Pennsylvania's Keenan Smith (132), New York Metro's Steven Martinez (152) and Detroit's Craig Lewis (201+) are scheduled to begin their quests for another ring on tonight.
Lewis won the title last year in the 201-pound class and then won the 2008 Ringside World Championships at the higher weight (201+) in August.
A showdown is brewing in the 201+ this year because Kansas City's Lenroy Thompson has moved up to that weight as well.
At 201, this could be the year for Jordan Shimmell of Hudsonville, Mich. He's at the national tournament for the fourth straight year, but only 20 years old.
Beasley said fans should also pay attention to Michigan's Ernesto Garza in the 119-pound class.
"He hits like a 165-pounder," the executive director said.
New England won the team championship last year and is back to defend, while Fullmer said Florida, Pennsylvania and New York Metro are usually always strong.
N.Y. Metro's Martinez won the "Golden Boy Award" -- given to the tournament's most outstanding boxer -- last year and is again the favorite at 152.
Perhaps the Rocky Mountain region boxer with the best chance of taking a title is Duran Caferro, a 132-pounder from Helena, Mont., who was second last year at the same weight.
There are five defending champions in the field
|Boxer||Franchise||Last year's wt. class||This year's wt. class||Schedule|
|Louie Byrd||Colorado||106||112||Fights Wednesday|
|Ernesto Garza||Michigan||119||119||Fights Tuesday|
|Keenan Smith||Pennsylvania||132||132||Fights Tuesday|
|Steven Martinez||New York Metro||152||152||Fights Tuesday|
|Craig Lewis||Detroit||201||Heavyweight||Fights Tuesday|
Bouts begin at 6 p.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center with boxers in the 119, 132, 152, 178 and 201+ weight classes competing.