By Thomas Gerbasi
My first question to John Brown was whether the newly created USA Boxing Alumni Association would accept an old pug who had one amateur fight, getting knocked out in 63 seconds in the New York Golden Gloves.
I was asking for a friend.
“The Alumni Association is open for anyone who’s breathing,” deadpanned the USA Boxing president, as no nonsense as ever.
Brown would chuckle and then inquire about this bout, clearly enjoying any banter about the sport he has devoted much of his life to. And as anyone inside boxing will tell you, the stories about it are sometimes better than the fights.
It’s a unique fraternity, to be sure, and as the UBAA prepares to host its first Hall of Fame reception tonight in Salt Lake City, Brown hopes to make it an official one to bring former fighters together, help them to network, and to grow the amateur boxing program in this country.
“We want to grow the sport, and the best way to grow the sport is to create a huge fraternity of people so it creates a resource center for those of us who are running USA Boxing,” he said. “We need officials, we need boxers, we need more female boxers. When we have human resources, things happen.”
An alumni association was always something on Brown’s radar, but it wasn’t until Brown and Special Projects Consultant Al Valenti decided that the time was now that the ball started rolling. Then Notre Dame grad Chris Cugliari came into the picture, and when the idea of the UBAA came up, he jumped into action.
“Four days later, Chris gave us a 30-page business plan,” said Brown. “We’re just astounded because he made everything happen. So it shows you what happens when you find the right guy, who is smart, has the passion, and knows how to get s**t done.”
And now there’s an Alumni Association, which will induct Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Roosevelt Sanders and Tom Coulter into the UBAA Hall of Fame tonight. But the work is just beginning, as Brown looks to find even more folks like Cugliari to lend a hand.
“The biggest problem we have with our sport is finding people that have time,” he said. “We’ve got great people around our sport but they can’t really help us as much as you’d think they would because they don’t have time. But we can provide a real benefit to successful, retired people. It’s just gotta click. And the Alumni Association will afford us the opportunity for more of those clicks.”
Keeping the sport alive on the amateur level is key to developing the next generation of world champions, and through the UBAA, that next generation will also get to learn about the history of the game. That’s a fringe benefit for people like Brown, who enjoys nothing more than being around those who care about boxing like he does.
“One of the main reasons for the alumni association was because most boxing people want to hang around boxing people,” he said. “I used to have a shirt we made at Ringside, and it said, ‘Boxing Spoken Here.’ We all speak that language. I love to be around boxing people. My girlfriend is a marathoner and I go to some social events with marathoners and I can talk a little bit about working out and exercising, but other than that, I don’t know what the hell to say to them. (Laughs) But you get me in a room of boxing people, I can’t wait to talk to the next person. So we keep the history alive by the alumni association so that the history can be passed on to those who are young enough to not know, but maybe care.”
For more information on the USA Boxing Alumni Association, visit https://webpoint.usaboxing.org/alumni-association.wp