Bobby Lee has Silver and Gold reflections
Whether he’s conducting a workout session at Virginia City Middle School or traveling around the world to coach amateurs in a tournament, Bobby Lee’s involvement with boxing seems endless. And that’s just fine for a man who has turned the Silver and Gold Boxing Team into a way of life.
Just consider that the 58-year-old Lee was in Albuquerque, N.M. for the Native American Boxing Championships on Aug. 11-13, where Theron DeLorme (139 pounds) and Tyler Hinkey (super heavyweight) won titles and Ryan Simpson (178) lost on a questionable decision in the finals. Then Lee was in Denver on Aug. 16 to coach in the USA vs. Ireland dual. A week later Lee was in Scranton, Pa., where he watched 19-year-old Hinkey scored a memorable victory.
Looking ahead, Lee and his fighters will be part of a USA contingent headed to Finland for international duals Sept. 20 in Tampere and Sept. 23 in Kuopio. Hinkey is also entered in the National PAL Championships Sept. 30-Oct. 5 in Augusta, Ga., and then Lee is scheduled to manage a U.S. squad appearing in the Dominican Republic on Oct. 17.
Oh, and by the way, there’s this tournament in Athens, Greece two years from now.
“That’s my dream and I understand there’s a good chance I could be named to the coaching staff for the 2004 Olympic team,” Lee said. “Right now I’m taking any trip that comes my way, anything to help out my chances. Last December I took a team to a four-day tournament called the Carribean Classic; that was USA against 12 different island countries, and we won 11 out of 12 gold medals. All this international experience is only going to help me.”
Pretty impressive for a kid who took up the sport in the early 1960s at a very unsophisticated level in Odessa, Texas.
“When I was in 7th grade in Golden Gloves back then, we didn’t have any coaches,” Lee said. “That was a matter of just having an army duffel bag and packing it with cottonseed. There was no running, no technique, no coaches. It was just all about bragging rights.”
Lee left Texas after high school and came to Reno, where he became involved with the highly-organized University of Nevada program, then coached by the legendary Jimmy Olivas.
“I went to Reno to the university and started boxing for Jimmy Olivas the summer of 1963,” Lee said. “That was a real eye-opener because Jimmy Olivas was an excellent coach. He started teaching me some technique and conditioning and all that.”
An injury ultimately pushed Lee toward coaching fighters at Nevada, although he still qualified for the 1972 Western U.S. Olympic Trials in Roseburg, Ore. At that point he had to make a decision.
“I couldn’t coach and box at the same time, so that’s when I really went to coaching, and it worked out great,” he said.
The group he coached included heavyweight Emory Chapman, who finished as a two-time Golden Glove, three-time college champion and 1973 USA champion; middleweight Pete Wisecarver; David Gilmore and Willie Jenson. All four earned their way from Roseburg to the Olympic Trials two weeks later at TCU in Ft. Worth.
“Pete Wisecarver lost to Marvin Johnson (eventual two-time world champion) in the semifinals, but Pete had him down the first round. Emory Chapman lost in the quarterfinals to Larry Holmes on points; and Jenson, who was just a junior in high school, went all the way to the finals.”
Lee worked as a plumber for 36 years, but always managed to stick with boxing. Now, he’s a retired plumber and still going strong as a coach.
Simpson, 26, a two-time national collegiate champion for Nevada, has flourished during his time with the Silver and Gold Boxing Team and is now looking to turning pro after he returns from the Finland trip.
“I’ve been with Bob now for a little over a year since I graduated from Nevada,” Simpson said. “I will be meeting with Lou Duva and I’ll probably have my first pro fight in the next two months. I’m looking forward to that, for sure. It’s going to be a step. This is my dream and I owe a lot to Bobby Lee and his coaching for taking me to another level.”
Hinkey, a graduate of McDermitt High School where he played for basketball teams that played for Nevada A state championships in both 2000 and 2001, is now a nationally ranked super heavyweight. The 6-foot-1, 261-pound Hinkey is coming off a big victory against nationally ranked Jason Gavern in Scranton.
“That was a huge win for Tyler, a huge upset,” Lee said. “Gavern was ranked No. 3, fighting in his hometown, in his last fight as an amateur and Tyler went back there and beat him 22-20. It was a huge upset. I would predict Tyler will probably jump up to No. 4 or 5 after winning (the Native American) nationals and beating Gavern.”
That comes as no surprise to Lee, who has seen Hinkey work out with world heavyweight contender David Tua in the Virginia City gym.
“Lou Duva has sent me quite a few boxers — Tua, (super lightweight Arturo) Gatti, (Orlando) Canizales — they like coming up here to train.”
Lee says he feels fortunate to have all of this fall into place for him during the 11 years he has been in Virginia City.
“Henry Kilmer, who is the superintendent of schools in Storey County, helped the team by making the weight training room at the middle school available; we converted that into a gym. And Bum Hess has helped us out a lot, too.”
So did his wife of 37 years, Cheri, who passed away on Nov. 13, 2000.
“She was always supportive of all the boxers and we had nine of them live with us at different times,” Lee said. “She was a huge, huge part in my boxing. Without her I would have never gotten as I far as I have.”
After 33 years of coaching, Lee still prefers the amateurs.
“My objective is for them to become the best boxers they can be and to become productive citizens,” Lee said. “I’ve always gone by the three D’s. That’s desire, determination and dedication. If they can do that, they’re going to be successful not only boxing but anything in life that they wanted to do.”
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal