Alorton boxer wins St. Louis Golden Gloves title
Boxing has always drawn Larry Wade, who had long enjoyed spreading out with friends in front of the television on fight nights.
But when his beloved mother, Jennifer Smith, died in 2011, the sport became something more to the 27-year-old Alorton resident.
It has given him a diversion, a direction, a focus and a new set of goals that have pushed his life forward.
“When my mother passed, it was like time stopped for me,” Wade said. “I went toward a negative path with drinking too much and hanging out with the wrong people. I just decided I needed something to do.
“I needed something to occupy my time and my mind to get my head off of my mother’s passing.”
Wade found his way to the Belleville Boxing Club, a free, non-profit club established in the former Remmick Hardware building at Bellevue Park Plaza at the intersection of West Main Street and North Belt West. He’s been training with Ernie Kitterman, the former middleweight boxing champion and kickboxer from Belleville, and other coaches.
“I didn’t even know it was free when I came here. I just saw ‘boxing’ on the sign and thought I’d check it out,” Wade said.
People train for a lot of different reasons, but for me boxing has been about focusing me and pulling me forward through goals.
Larry Wade, 27, St. Louis Golden Gloves super heavyweight champion
After three exhibition fights, Wade finally notched his first win and, with it, his first belt. On Feb. 4, the 298-pound slugger won a three-round decision to capture the St. Louis Golden Gloves super heavyweight novice division title.
The victory, he said, was affirmation of all the goals he’s set for himself since he started his training in 2011.
“People train for a lot of different reasons, but for me boxing has been about focusing me and pulling me forward through goals,” said Wade, who by day works as a carpet specialist for Smoke Restorative Services in Belleville. “Sometimes it’s just working on a technique; sometimes it’s for my weight and conditioning.
“I’ve always wanted to compete, too; I wanted to spar on the first day.”
Belleville Boxing Club is populated nightly by a diversity of boxers who train with different goals in mind. On any given night, there may be a mix in age from 10 to 60 years old — some white professionals and some black inner-city youth. They push each other through organized circuits Mondays and Wednesdays and spar on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Participation is free; the gym is supported by a donation box by the door and a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/ironmangym.
Wade’s story is not an uncommon one at the club.
Ken Reilly was an amateur boxer who grew up poor in Belleville and credits the discipline he learned in the sport for the success he’s had as a local building contractor. It was Reilly who purchased the building so that Kitterman could establish the club.
“Boxing is a poor man’s sport,” said Reilly, who began boxing in the 1970s. “I tell people all the time if I would have had to pay $5 a month to box ... but I learned so much from it.”
Quontez McRath discovered the Belleville Boxing Club in 2011, also as a way of diverting his thoughts from the death of his mother. He currently lives in Las Vegas with Reilly, who has trained McRath to an 8-0 professional middleweight record.
I really need to get myself into shape before I make that kind of decision, but, yeah, I'd like to get into a pro fight someday.
Wade doesn’t know if he’ll follow in McRath’s pro footsteps or not.
“I really need to get myself into shape before I make that kind of decision,” he said, “but, yeah, I’d like to get into a pro fight someday.”
Kitterman says Wade has fast hands “especially for a man his size,” and the ability to focus all 298 pounds into his punches. The immediate plan — beyond a March 2 bout in St. Charles — is to keep him under 10 sanctioned fights so he remains eligible for the Golden Gloves novice division next year.
After that, they’ll take the step to the open division.
In the meantime, Wade said he plans to shed more than 100 pounds to 180, so that he can compete as a light heavyweight. That’s a big goal, he admits, but no bigger than that which he’s already achieved — the Golden Gloves title.
“You can’t do that all on the bag. You have to do plyometrics, shadow boxing and a whole lot of running, running, running, runnning,” he said. “Oh man, and eating clean ... that’s the one thing I am really bad at. You go around to places that have fast food and the dollar menu will get you.
“It’s work and a challenge, yeah, but it’s the goal you’re after.”