At 82 years old, Gene Reese of Harrison refereed the super heavyweight championship bout last Saturday night to cap a week at the National Golden Glove Tournament of Champions at Salt Lake City.
Reese began the week with a big surprise -- induction into the Golden Glove Hall of Fame as this year's official being honored. He was one of three people added to the hall.
His wife, Janis, knew all about it and had prepared biographical information for the occasion. Someone from Knoxville had sent tournament director Larry Fullmer a copy of the radio broadcast of the most famous boxing match in Chattanooga history, which Reese won in 1960.
As the background of a particular inductee was being read, Reese noted that the events and places being mentioned sounded very familiar.
"They kept talking about this and that, and all the countries, and I thought, 'That sounds like me,'" Reese said after returning home. "Boy, they really surprised me."
As for Gus Chamberlain's radio account of light heavyweight Reese coming off the canvas to beat bigger bodybuilder Richard Bachus, "You ought to've heard 'em," Reese said, referring to the resounding cheers he received 53 years later.
"People kept telling me all week, 'Get up, Reese. Get up, Reese! Get UP!"
Named for boxer Gene Tunney with a slight spelling difference in his middle name, Reese began working as a boxing official in 1962. He had risen to the top of the ranks of U.S. referee-judges in international amateur competition when he suddenly was dropped because of his age in 1991. But he ultimately won an age-discrimination appeal and returned to working international matches in 1997.
He began working national Golden Glove, Junior Olympic and USA Boxing tournaments in 1972. Among the fighters he shared rings with who gained fame as pros were Aaron Pryor, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones, Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray Mercer and Riddick Bowe.
He has officiated events in 26 countries, and his family has embraced his passion for amateur boxing. His son, Gene K. "Butch" Reese, also judges, and grandson Shawn Reese is the chief of officials for the Southeast Association of USA Boxing. Janis works as a timekeeper and clerk. She and Shawn also worked the Golden Gloves nationals in Salt Lake City.
And they basked in the admiration Gene received there.
For his part, he said of the many distinctions he's enjoyed in his long boxing career that the Hall of Fame induction is "the best honor I've ever had."
Still slim, spry and sharp at 82, he's not ready to quit.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org at 423-757-6291.
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