When people think of amateur boxing, they think of young kids just throwing punches. But, amateur boxing is more than just that. People don’t know the officials behind amateur boxing. Nor do they know about the tournaments and the people involved in amateur boxing that have been around the sport for years. But where do the pros come from? They come from the amateurs. Before a fighter can make it in the pros, they must first rise through the amateur ranks. Ray Rodgers is a man who knew these pros before they made it big. Almost every pro boxer that went through the amateurs has known or heard of Ray Rodgers. Ray Rodgers has been running the amateur boxing scene for over 20 years. He also created the Silver Gloves one of the United States biggest amateur tournaments. Ray Rodgers is a boxing encyclopedia himself. He has also worked over 50 title fights as a cut-man. He has worked with fighters such as Tommy Morrison, Jermain Taylor, Hector Camacho, Glen Johnson, Wayne McCullough, and Iran Barkley.
Presently, he is retired from owning a construction business. He spends every single weekend from October-May with the exception of holidays, overseeing Arkansas amateur boxing matches while also being president of National Golden Gloves & National Silver Gloves for the last 20 plus years.
I have the privilege to be with Ray every weekend. Most coaches only see him at big tournaments or only know of him. We have boxing matches here in Arkansas every weekend. Ray is an all around good guy to be around. He always jokes around and has a good laugh with you. Ray is the type of person that you can approach and talk to him as if he was your best friend. He knows all there is to know about boxing. He has countless stories of his days as an amateur, and how he stopped big cuts in a world championship title fight. Ray Rodgers is a true inspiration. After talking with him you get inspired to be a better boxer as well as inspired to be a better person. Ray volunteers to the young amateur boxers, but he also helps the community. He has a education center called Golden Gloves Education. He provides tutoring to underprivileged kids.He spends countless hours to the improvement of young men and women in amateur boxing and else where. He is a true volunteer, and in my opinion a true American hero.
Recently, I sat down with Ray Rodgers before a local boxing show here in Arkansas. Ray has been involved in the sport for many years and has great knowledge of boxing. Here is my one-on-one interview with Ray Rodgers:
Me: How did you first start boxing?
Ray Rodgers: They sent a note around school in the 5th grade in Tecumseh, Oklahoma. If you had a note from your parents you could try-out. I made the team. I even fought a kid 2 to 3 years older than me and won. Then, I moved to Conway, AR. The National Guard had a boxing team. I have been boxing in Arkansas since 1948.
Me: Who was the first fighter you worked as cut-man for?
Ray Rodgers: First pro was Fred Jackson. I have worked over 50 world championship fights.
Me: How did you become such a good cut-man?
Ray Rodgers: Practice, practice, practice, and know your craft. Study all the medicine you can. I have stuff that will hold two drops of water together.
Me: You created Silver Gloves, formally Silver Mittens, how did the first official Silver Mittens show go? And how did it grow over the years?
Ray Rodgers: The first show was in 1967. It was in Peoria, Illinois. From 1967 to 1989 we held it in 1 city every two years. The National Silver Gloves has been at the Hilton Garden Inn since 1991.
Me: Who are the most notable pro boxers you knew as amateurs?
Ray Rodgers: Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, and Ike Williams.
Me: What is the difference about today’s amateur boxers vs amateurs in the past?
Ray Rodgers: Better training, nutrition, environment, and training mechanisms.
Me: You are one of the greatest cut-man in boxing, can you tell of a time you dealt with a nasty cut or swelling on a fighter. Maybe the most memorable.
Ray Rodgers: Iran Barkley fought Henry Maske in Germany in 1994. At the end of the fight, it took to hours and 62 stitches to fix. Also, when Jermain Taylor fought Bernard Hopkins in July 2005 in the 5th round Jermain got cut on top of his head. The cut took 16 stitches to close after the fight. I kept him in the fight and we won the Middleweight championship.
Me: What is your favorite thing about amateur boxing?
Ray Rodgers: I like the clean competitive nature. Amateur boxing is head and shoulders over pro boxing. The youngsters are more dedicated and grounded in fundamental fairness.
Me: Who is the fighter you absolutely didn’t like working for as a cut-man?
Ray Rodgers: Macho Camacho. He had poor attitude and nasty habits. We fought Oscar De La Hoya for Welterweight crown in 1997 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Me: Who was your favorite fighter working for as cut-man in the amateurs? (A few decades ago, cut-men were allowed in the corner in the amateurs, they no longer are.)
Ray Rodgers: Harold Britain and Tyron Rodgers. (Tyron Rodgers has no relation to Ray Rodgers.)
Me: What fighter do you remember had good talent that was wasted?
Ray Rodgers: Too many sad cases to mention.
Me: Which fighter in today’s time do you dislike due to actions inside/outside of the ring?
Ray Rodgers: I don’t dislike any fighter, I just refuse to work with some due to their attitude.
Me: Why do you still volunteer in amateur boxing? You have done well to the sport and could have quit by now, but yet you keep volunteering and helping amateurs. What drives you to keep doing well to the sport of boxing?
Ray Rodgers: It gives me the opportunity to see young people develop, get educated, and do well in life.
Me: What do you think about AIBA taking the headgear off elite class fighters and Olympians?
Ray Rodgers: Not for it for a variety of reasons. Taking headgear off in the pros is soon enough.
Me: How was your experience as an amateur boxer? What titles did you win? What was your mentality entering the ring?
Ray Rodgers: Titles: AAU Lightweight/Welterweight Champ and Golden Gloves Champ. My mentality was that I believed I could beat anyone.
Me: Who is the most skillful boxer you have worked with & what did you admire about their style?
Ray Rodgers: Tommy Morrison. He was an explosive puncher, fairly skilled as a boxer, and he could turn a bout around with one punch. As a technical boxer it would have to be Lamar Murphy.
Me: When it’s all said and done, how do you feel about your legacy and the impact you have on the sport?
Ray Rodgers: I don’t think of it as a legacy, I think of it as just something I like doing. I still intend to do a whole lot more. I coached my first team when I was 16 years old. The toughest fighter I worked with was Wayne McCullough. The fighter with the most guts would have to be Jermain Taylor.
It is an honor to know a great man like Ray Rodgers personally. I am glad I got to sit with Ray and get this piece of boxing knowledge that I intend to preserve. I treasure all the time I have spent with Ray Rodgers.
You might not find very much information on the internet about Ray Rodgers, because he is a true silent legacy.