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Englewood boxer carries legacy of Chicago Golden Gloves tournament

Englewood boxer carries legacy of Chicago Golden Gloves tournament
Englewood boxer carries legacy of Chicago Golden Gloves tournament 03:23

CHICAGO (CBS) – Known as the sweet science, boxing has deep roots in Chicago. One particular event is proving over time to be as good as gold.

The Chicago Golden Gloves tournament is the largest and longest-running regional amateur boxing event in the country. This year, it turns 100.

When it started in 1923, more than 400 young men from Chicago's working class neighborhoods fought for respect and glory.

CBS 2's Jackie Kostek introduced us to an Englewood native who went from surprising start to proudly carrying on that legacy.

At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, what Eric Ross may lack in experience, he makes up for in presence.

"Even when going into nationals and the Golden Gloves, I'm looking at everybody's record like, these kids have 20, 30 fights," Ross said. "I only got five fights."

As a two-time Chicago Golden Gloves winner and the reigning national Golden Gloves Super Heavyweight Champion, Ross' rapid rise in the rings can be chalked up to natural athleticism, yes, but also to the laser focus and discipline of a professional athlete, which he had pre-pandemic when he was playing professional basketball in Europe.

"I came back from Germany in 2018, 2019 and I went straight to the gym," he said.

It didn't take long for Ross to meet his new coach, Rodney Wilson, who won three-straight Chicago Golden Gloves himself in the late 1980s.

"Eric was a walk-in really," Wilson said. "He already had the attitude and everything, so therefore, it wasn't hard to train him."

The two had only been working together about a month-and-a-half when Ross had his first fight, the 2019 Chicago Golden Gloves.

"My first fight was one of the best fighters in the whole tournament," Ross said. "I had butterflies out the roof. I was like, I'm just going to go in here and swing, just do the best I can. It just so happens man, I won by a split decision. Then the next fights were just first round knockouts."

Kostek: "Did you shock yourself?"

Ross: "Yes I did. I really shocked myself with that second round because I had that 15-second knockout."

Ross hasn't stopped winning since.

"He did something I couldn't do," Wilson said. "I've been to nationals five times. I could never win. He went in his very first time and won."

And while Ross eventually sees himself assuming the role of coach like Wilson, for now, he's focused on establishing a legacy that folds seamlessly into the rich 100-year history of the Golden Gloves.

"I see all the people that did it so like, for me to be like in history with the nationals, it just gives me that little chip on the shoulder to keep getting better," Ross said. "So hopefully I'll have a poster in here when I'm a pro heavyweight champion."

But first, Ross' sights are set on Olympic gold.

"You going to see me in the Olympic trials," he said. "You're going to see my name even bigger than it is today."

How about Paris 2024?

"Yeah that's exactly where you're going to see me," he said.

The Golden Gloves Tournament begins on Wednesday in Cicero and runs through mid-April.

All five Chicago Olympian boxers in previous years were first Chicago Golden Gloves winners.

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