Goss: An ageless wonder and his young protege
June 29, 2012 8:54PM
Joe Bennett (left) and Michael Reid each won titles in their divisions at the Title Boxing 2012 National Championships. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2012 6:19AM
Does age matter?
With what has been happening at the KO Zone Boxing Club in downtown Joliet, the answer is a resounding no.
Ageless Joe Bennett and young Michael Reid, who do their heavy work at the KO Zone, won championships in the Title Nationals a couple of weeks ago in Mississippi.
“Joe is amazing,” Reid said of Bennett, whose remarkable career was rewarded several years ago with his induction into the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame. “He is in outstanding shape for his age.”
Or any age. He is 73 years young. He coaches, trains and spars with the 18-year-old Reid, among other up-and-comers who frequent the gym. The association with the younger set, in fact, replanted the bug.
“Maybe I should get back in the ring myself,” Bennett thought.
That’s what he did in 2011, after a 35-year layoff. He went out and won his Master’s division weight class at the Title Nationals and at the Ringside World Championships in Kansas City, Mo.
Bennett is a seven-time Golden Gloves champion. He won eight state titles, eight CYO championships, is a three-time Midwest Regional champ and participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
But that was back in the day. What is amazing now is that he weighs very nearly the same as he did then, he is in condition to strap on the gloves and get it on, and he wins.
“Last year I won Title and World championships,” he said. “I fought in the master’s division at 123 pounds last year. I’m in the 132-pound class now; I weigh 128. I’m still trying to put on weight.
“I won nationals before weighing 122 pounds, and that was 35 years ago.”
He is nothing if not humble, yet is understandably proud he can defy the laws of aging and prove he still has it. But he takes even more pride in nurturing Reid as he develops into a star in his own right.
“Mike is really good and he’s progressing the way I want,” Bennett said. “He’s 15-0 with me as his coach and trainer.
“He went to another gym and had a different coach for a while, and he lost a couple bouts. Then he came back with me and hasn’t lost again.”
“Joe’s the only real boxing coach that I’ve had,” Reid said.
Reid, who graduated from Minooka in the spring, has been involved in martial arts since he was 4, Muay Thai kickboxing since he was 11 and he got into boxing at 14.
“I have a Muay Thai fight (Saturday),” he noted. “I still do them all. It’s never boring, never the same old thing. I have 29 titles all together.”
Boxing, however, has a leg up.
“Boxing is where the money is,” Reid said. “I can always go back to school, go to college, but I can’t always go back into boxing. I have to give it my best shot now.”
The 5-11 Reid is fighting at 178 pounds. The Title Nationals championship was his first competing in the Men’s division. He will attempt to add to his resume when he and Bennett travel to the Ringside World Championships, scheduled July 30 to Aug. 5.
How about the Olympics some day?
“If I had that opportunity, I would be interested,” Reid said. “I had a fight where I beat a guy who is the Olympic team’s training partner.”
His goal, though, is to become a professional boxer.
“A manager from HBO contacted me and said he might be interested in signing me,” Reid said. “He loved the way I fight. He saw me at the Golden Gloves Nationals.”
Reid knows how Manny Pacquiao felt after his loss to Timothy Bradley.
“Last year I lost by one point at the Golden Gloves finals, and no one there thought I lost,” he said. “All kinds of managers came up to me and said I won the fight.”
Reid won the USA Boxing championship at age 15. He is a Junior Golden Gloves champ and a Silver Gloves regional and national champion. A Hall of Famer like Joe Bennett will tell you in no uncertain terms how bright Reid’s future is.
“He’s really good, really good, and getting better all the time,” Bennett said.
The KO Zone
Bennett’s son Jermain, a pretty fair boxer himself, manages the KO Zone, which is on the second floor of an old downtown building and would serve as an appropriate setting for a Hollywood movie depicting boxing in its glory days.
The Bennetts operate under the “Gloves, Not Guns” mantra, hoping to provide a haven to keep kids off the streets and in a positive activity. However, they need funding to continue their work with up-and-coming boxers such as Reid.
Anyone interested in contributing can send a check to KO Zone Boxing Club, 218 E. Cass St., Joliet, IL 60432 or call (815) 302-2741.