By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Ten young fighters with dreams of becoming world champions took a giant step forward at Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill.  The main hall of the harness racing track was the stage for the 2019 Washington Golden Gloves Regional Championships.

The winners of these fights had been tested through a grueling stretch of sectional competition in D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and eastern North Carolina.  They earned the right to represent this region as the march to National Golden Gloves Tournament continues in Chattanooga, Tennessee May 5-12.

Ten fighters from the area will be moving on to the National Golden Gloves Tournament on May 5-12 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Stock Photo)

This annual tournament has produced some of the best fighters in the history of the boxing.  It traditionally has been the platform for champions from Sugar Ray Leonard during the 1970’s through Gary Russell, Jr. in the early 2000’s to begin their quest for Olympic and professional success in the sweet science, while building camaraderie between fighters who form a team that competes for individual success and overall glory.

There were two sets of championships contested over the course of 20 bouts during the evening.  The first 10 contests were for novice division champions who are still in the developmental stage of their career and didn’t qualify for the national. Open division bouts featured the boxers who were competing to make the travel team. However, the trend for success was established as representatives from the D.M.V. used their hometown advantage winning seven of the 10 matches.

Three D.C. boxers won novice championships. DeMarco Kennedy and Saquan Epps won in the 123 and 132 pound divisions while Ricardo Volcin won the super heavyweight title.  Baltimore’s Walter Sanders won the 141 pound crown also.

Meanwhile, in the open division, five of the 10 fighters who earned the right to represent the region at the nationals hail from Maryland suburbs.  Lanham’s Demetrius Lewis and Hyattsville’s Shakeel Daly were victorious in the 123 and 132 pound divisions while   Nerissa Turner won the women’s division.  Baltimore’s super heavyweight Malik Titus won the division for the second consecutive year.   Tommy Avelar, Nicholas Sullivan, Kelvin Davis, William Townsel, Joel Tchantning, and Ezri Turner round out the regional travel team.

In 2012, the team featured three national champions including current WBA super featherweight champion Gervonta Davis.  Davis, who has been champion since 2018 with a 21-0 record that includes 20 knockouts, is being promoted by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and is currently considered to be one of the top 10 boxers – pound for pound – in the world.

For three decades, promoter Bobby Magruder has worked tirelessly to build the region’s Golden Gloves program.  For his efforts during the championship evening, McGruder earned his place as the sole inductee into the 2019 National Golden Gloves Hall of Fame. When this year’s edition of the national tournament begins on May 5, it will become official.

“We’ve made big strides in the last 10 years,” McGruder told the {AFRO+.  “In the beginning these kids didn’t have uniforms and we thought they deserved to look the part when we hit the road. It has been a long road to get to this point, but well worth it.”

A former boxer himself, Magruder fought Leonard as an amateur  but never turned pro.  Instead he uses the Golden Gloves to help young athletes by exposing them to different experiences and environments that can help them grow into productive citizens as adults.

“I can’t thank Mr. Magruder enough for the work he puts in to make this event work,”  Titus said.  “I would have never gotten the chance to see a place like if it hadn’t been for boxing and the work Bobby puts in each year. Now it’s about winning a national championship.”