By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — As the host site for the New Mexico Golden Gloves competition in 18 of the last 19 years, Clovis has certainly been a boxer-friendly atmosphere for the state’s amateur pugilists.
With a little extra publicity to set up this year’s event, organizer Chuck Haas was busy on the phone Thursday morning as the ring was being erected at the Roy Walker Community Center.
“Hello? Who are you? Have you ever boxed before?” asked Haas to a caller on the eve of the state competition.
“We’ll have people coming to the back door (Friday) morning asking if they can get in,” said George Sena, who coaches around 15 local fighters.
Expect the more seasoned fighters to have the best chance to move on to the regional competition, next weekend in Denver, as the preliminary bouts begin tonight at Roy Walker.
Last year, four Clovis boxers won their respective weight divisions and headed for regionals. A pair of those, including Edgar Zubia, qualified for the national Golden Gloves competition. Zubia, 19, is entered in the 125-pound, or featherweight classification, in this year’s event.
Another local fighter expected to make a mark is Kevin Mha, 21, who will be in the 141-pound division.
“He picked (boxing) up this year and he’s coming along,” Haas said.
Haas, 82, has been involved in Golden Gloves, in one form or another, for over 60 years. The current president of the Golden Gloves of New Mexico, Haas says that radio and television advertising in recent weeks has elevated the exposure for this year’s championships.
Still, although some boxers have already traveled across the state and were in Clovis as early as Wednesday night, Haas says that it’s hard to gauge how many entrants will be in each weight classification — at least until the official weigh-in, which takes place from 8 to 11 a.m. today.
Boxing will take place tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m., with finals slated for Sunday at 1:30 p.m.. In previous years, some championship bouts have been held on Saturday night if the draw has been low.
“I’m assuming it will go through Sunday,” Haas said. “I’m hoping like hell it does.”
Admission is seven dollars a person with those under 18 getting in for four dollars.
“In the past, we’ve had 65 to 70 fighters. That sounds like a lot, but it’s hard to get 30 fights sometimes with all the different weights,” Haas said.
Whatever amount of fights do take place, organizers expect a large crowd.
“I went to the USA (boxing) tournament a couple of months ago and this is going to be a heck of a lot bigger tournament,” Sena said. “It’s a very prestigious tournament, always has been, and the turnout here in Clovis has been phenomenal practically every year.”