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For Young Boxers, Regional Tournament Could Start Path to 2024 Olympics

More than 100 boys and girls will compete in the Silver Gloves regional boxing tournament Jan. 18 and 19 on Cleveland's East Side — and, for some, it could be a stepping stone toward the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The boxers, aged 8 to 16, come from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. They qualified for the tournament by winning state-level competitions and by being members in good standing of USA Boxing, the governing body for Olympic-style amateur boxing. Coach Ra’sheen Ali has been training five boxers — four boys and one girl — in his East Side gym, DNA Level C. The Silver Gloves is an important rite of passage for young boxers, he said.

"They win this, then you'll see these same boxers working their way up [to] the Golden Gloves, and then the biggest stage, which will be the 2024 Olympics," he said.

One of Ali's trainees, 15-year-old Kareem Dotson, boxes as a way to channel energy.

"When I was younger, I liked to talk a lot, so I’d always get into fights," he said. "And my dad told me I need to be disciplined and since I like to fight, he put me in boxing. And I really love it. It's a fun sport."

Silver Gloves competitor Kareem Dotson, 15, lives in Cleveland's Union-Miles neighborhood. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]

The number of registered boxers is up this year compared to last, said Sandra Campbell, who organizes the tournament with her husband, Silver Gloves Scholarship Director Gene Campbell.

But she says the overall trend over the last few years has been downward.

"It's too easy to sit on the couch and play video games," she said. "Boxing, that's a tough sport. I mean, you have to work hard to get in shape. You have to go to the gym every night."

With a growing body of research that contact sports can cause head injuries that have effects into adulthood, Campbell said kids' safety is a top concern. The Silver Gloves tournament follows the safety guidelines set by USA Boxing, including requiring kids to wear protective headgear and only box opponents in their age and weight classes, she said.

The regional tournament winners will qualify to move on to the national tournament in Independence, Mo., later this month.

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