In times past, boxing was a big sport for youth; one reason for this interest was the low cost for equipment, usually just gloves. Many high schools had intramural programs and as more and more schools took part, tournaments were started. The Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) tournament for the Archdiocese often drew 200 to 300 boxers. St. Rita used Harris Gym as the site for its boxing matches; St. Rita conducted intramural boxing for years, the best of those ten joined the competitive boxing team for interscholastic contests. The Golden Gloves amateur boxing competition in Chicago was started in 1923 at the Chicago Stadium; Golden Gloves south sectional competitions spent most of the 1940's and 1950's at St. Rita's Harris' Gym as did some C.Y.O. meets. For example, in the 1956 Golden Gloves 245 boxers sought titles; these boxers come from high schools (14 from St. Rita), private boys clubs, various C.Y.O and Y.M.C.A. clubs, and surrounding state.
Boxing was practiced through individual schools and clubs, and through a few major outlets: the C.Y.O. competitions, the Golden Gloves tournaments and the St. Rita Invitational. Shortly after St. Rita restarted its boxing program, it initiated the St. Rita Invitational in the Winter of 1946, and then won it for the next seven straight years (through the 1952/53 school year). With the St. Rita Invitational, came the Gardner Trophy, which was donated by Dr. James Gardner ('29) and his brother Andrew "Bud" Gardner ('26); the trophy was awarded to the school winning the competition.
Year after year, St. Rita would field boxing teams at major tournaments, such as the C.Y.O. and Golden Gloves. Oftentimes, the school earned an award for fielding the largest number of boxers; it was not unusual for St. Rita to have a good fighter for each and every division, both novice and open; this meant St. Rita would bring squads of 16 or more boxers to each meet.
Today some of that rich tradition can be found at St. Rita's gym. While boxing is no longer sponsored as an interscholastic sport, clubs and private gyms have taken over that role.
Text taken from St. Rita of Cascia High School, Centennial Rememberance. 2005 by Richard P. Bessette
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