To say the 79th Texas state Golden Gloves boxing tournament will be Jeanie Sharp’s last is a stretch of the truth.
At the conclusion of the national tournament in May, Sharp will begin a hard-earned retirement from her duties as president of the Texas Golden Gloves. But she can’t just quit the association after 36 years.
So she’ll stay around as a consultant, volunteer for a bit and return to the tournament as a spectator.
The regional tournament begins Tuesday and runs through Saturday at Watt Arena on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The state tournament runs the following week — Feb. 25-28.
Sharp began her service in 1979 as an aide to former president George Kellam, the director of public relations for the Star-Telegram who oversaw the Gloves out of offices at the paper.
Though the paper remains a proud sponsor, the Gloves moved into its current offices on Henderson Street in the mid-1980s. Sharp is happy to remind visitors that Texas Golden Gloves is one of the few in the national network that owns its own gym, which once served as an airplane hangar at Greater Southwest International Airport.
In fostering the organization that began in 1936, Sharp leaves proud of her work during a period of dramatic change, including twice moving the site of the tournament and the introduction of girls into the competition.
“With all the cuts given to charity, all the sponsorships that have come and gone over the years, and we’re still doing it,” said Sharp, who will turn over the reins to new president Monica Basan. “We pay our bills, we take kids to nationals and we come home and put some money back for the year and get ready for the next year. A lot of people can’t do that.”
What won’t you miss about this job?
“Taxes and balancing books [laughing]. I can float around the venue every night and talk to people. The season ticket holders, some of these people have been going for as long as I’ve been alive. I’m going to miss that. In [the office], some days, I just want to pull my hair out. ... And [the boxers], sometimes I want to ring their little necks when they turn pro at 17, that kind of thing. It’s like someone is waving a dollar in their face, and it’s just not the right thing to do. It’s not there. They can’t win a national title, but we’ll turn pro?”
You also changed venues.
“Yes. Will Rogers [Coliseum] from the heyday when it was packed, then we went over to John Justin and it was still a little big for us. But Watt Arena fits us well. My volunteers have been good sports about it. They have taken the moves and made their project work.”
That’s one challenge for the Gloves moving forward, isn’t it?
“It is. How we can do that ... I don’t know. It’s another reason it’s time to retire. Maybe a younger person with new ideas and more energy will be able to accomplish the stuff I’m not getting done right now. I want to make sure Golden Gloves is left in a good place. Bank account, we’re OK. Facility ... we’re OK. But getting people in the house, that’s the big challenge right now.”
Why has spectator interest waned?
“Back in the heyday, there was not as much competition for the sports dollar. There are more things available for people to go do. Also, over the years, boxing has become, I don’t know, not a politically correct sport. My thing has always been, it’s not about boxing, it’s about getting kids off the streets and giving them something to do.”
Speak more to that, the kids.
“That’s what this is about. A lot of our kids, they don’t do school sports for one reason or another: grades, costs, just a lot of stuff — if people would just stop and think what it’s about. We have one sponsor now, Grady King, and that’s his outlook — kids. The man has been a blessing for this program, and his thinking is it helps kids. That’s all he cares about. He loves going to the fights, but he loves helping kids.”
If a parent came to you and said they want their kid to box, what would you say to encourage that decision?
First thing I’d say is make sure you get connected with a good boxing club. You’ve got to judge the man who is coaching them; some are in just for trophies. [As a coach] you’re in here, you’re going to encourage that kid so that now he stands up straight, where he was kind of slouching and hiding in the shadows, stuff like that. But anyone who gets in there one-on-one [in the ring] ... there’s a confidence that comes with that. I think that’s what parents should be looking for. Don’t be looking for a national champion or Olympian.
Fort Worth Regional Golden Gloves
7 p.m. nightly, Tuesday through Saturday
Watt Arena on the Will Rogers Complex
Tickets: $10-$25. Call 817-336-1313 or go to texasgoldengloves.com