Revival of boxing club sends rookies to Golden Gloves

by Nigel D'Souza, Hernan Ortiz and Matt Myers | 5/10/02 5:00am

Tomorrow, five Dartmouth boxers will be travelling to Berlin, N.H., for an exhibition match at Shaw's Gym. This signifies a revival of the Dartmouth Boxing Club, founded when Corey Ford started teaching "the manly art of self-defense" in his North Balch Street basement in 1949.

In the 1930s, intramural boxing competitions were a popular yearly event. With the coming of World War II and changes in the athletic department, though, the club went under until officially re-forming in 1955. By then, Ford had a dedicated group of boxers, and by 1956 the club was ready for competition.

Due to the limited number of collegiate boxing clubs, though, the best outlet for the Dartmouth boxers' talents was the New Hampshire Golden Gloves tournament. When Herb Wahl '57 walked away with the light-heavyweight title, Dartmouth's place at Golden Gloves was established. Blessed with skilled fighters, a coach as dedicated as Ford and the generous support of alumni, the club took off, winning nine state titles within three years.

But by the 1960s, failing interest and changing attitudes towards boxing caused the athletic department to derecognize the club in 1963. Even that didn't stop the competitive spirit of Harry Crosswell, though. As coach Ford's last remaining pupil, Crosswell won the last of the club's 12 state titles in 1965.

In 1998, trained amateur boxer Craig McGray arrived at Dartmouth for his computer science graduate studies. Upon his arrival, Craig remembers "I found that there was no venue within an hour's car drive. So, after trying a few boxaerobics classes, I decided to start the Dartmouth College Boxing Club."

Craig began training new members, while searching for proper coaches. Craig and Myers -- a veteran of two Golden Gloves competitions -- began writing to alumni of the boxing club from the '30s to the '50s to donate to a fund to re-equip the club. The response was more than generous, setting down the physical infrastructure of the club with the purchase of mitts, bag gloves, sparring gloves, jump ropes, protective gear, medicine balls, punching bags and a full size boxing ring.

With the boxing club physically and financially established, this year's officers have focused on expanding its membership and popularity. To accomplish this goal, the Club is evolving from a club sport to include a PE class focusing on basic boxing skills and conditioning, with reduced hours and no obligation to spar.

Body strengthening, conditioning and the ability to throw a punch are all achieved in this class, while maintaining personal safety.

In 2000, Dartmouth began sending entrants to the Golden Gloves. This year, scheduling problems have limited participation to an exhibition match tomorrow at Shaw's Gym in Berlin, N.H. This year's fighters have no previous competitive boxing experience (unlike their opponents) nor did any have boxing experience before coming to Dartmouth. They have been taught from scratch by club coaches Paul Efstathiou and Elvis Lowe.

Paul, a forester from Vermont, learned to fight on the streets of Lowell, Mass., while Elvis, a martial arts instructor in White River Junction, Vt., honed his skills as a champion amateur boxer in Barbados. Their complementary skills and personalities serve to train and motivate both beginning and experienced boxers at the club. Both coaches work with the boxing club on an entirely voluntary basis and have made grand contributions to its revival.

Although the Dartmouth boxers lack experience, the Big Green fighters' skills, high level of conditioning and hunger mean they are prepared to put up a good fight this weekend. Nigel D'Souza '02, Jordan Glaser '03, Lawrence Park '03, Christian Littlejohn '05 and Hernan Ortiz '05 will all be competing in weight categories ranging from heavyweight to bantamweight.

With four of this year's five competitors returning in the fall, a strong freshman class, the continued instruction from club coaching and high membership, the Dartmouth Boxing Club has re-established itself, and looks to have a bright future. Next year's plans include staging a fight at Dartmouth against Harvard's boxing club, and possibly a spring break training trip to Barbados.

Nigel D'Souza, Hernan Ortiz and Matt Myers are members of the Dartmouth College Boxing Club.