Ian Gill’s Golden Glove title came from hard work and grit — and his family
CORNWALL — Back when he was in Cornwall’s elementary school, Ian Gill — now a University of Vermont senior majoring in finance — would drive with his dad, Brian Gill, and brother Adam to watch members of his dad’s Cornwall Boxing Club battle other amateurs in the Vermont Golden Gloves competition.
Vermont boxing legend Ernie Farrar staged the annual midwinter matches, actually the Northern New England championships, in Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium.
“I remember hopping in the backseat of the minivan, getting ready to drive up to the Golden Gloves with my dad and his boxers,” said Ian, 21. “I thought it was so cool that my brother and I got to ride up to Memorial Auditorium and be a part of the gang.”
Ian toyed with the idea of lacing on the gloves, but he admitted until early last summer he never found the right motivation.
“I always wanted to fight in the Golden Gloves myself, but never thought I’d ever actually put in the work to get myself down to weight and in good enough shape,” Ian said.
Still, two things nagged at him. The first?
“I really wanted to be a part of the history of the Cornwall Boxing Club,” Ian said.
The second? With his final year at the UVM looming and his future plans and home uncertain, Ian found something inside himself that probably was first born back on those minivan rides.
“I might take a job out-of-state, get caught up with life, and never get my chance to check doing the Golden Gloves with my dad off my bucket list,” he said.
About eight months later and 30 pounds lighter, after countless hours of running, lifting and sparring — some of it in a barn loft and some of it upstairs in Cornwall Town Hall — Gill on Jan. 26 became the 174-pound Novice Division Northern New England Golden Gloves Champion.
Now Gill was not just part of the gang — the gang came with him. Brian Gill served as his corner man, and Adam Gill was there to support him.
IAN GILL, LEFT, poses this winter with his father, Brian, in what is the heart of the Cornwall Boxing Club — the sparring ring in the hayloft of Ian’s grandparents’ former farm. During his holiday break from the University of Vermont, Gill trained for the Golden Gloves competition there and in the upper story of the Cornwall Town Hall.
Photo courtesy of Ian Gill
Adam, 20, a 2017 Vergennes Union High School graduate and 1,000-point basketball scorer, said his brother earned his title through preparation and discipline.
“Ian definitely put in more time and effort into it than any other boxer to ever come through the club,” Adam said. “He worked his butt off at the gym and in the kitchen.”
Ian might also have been motivated because Adam fought before he did, winning a youth exhibition bout during the 2014 Golden Gloves tournament. Adam retired at 1-0.
“I have eternal bragging rights. No one can ever take away my undefeated record,” he said.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
Brian Gill, 54, started the Cornwall Boxing Club about 20 years ago. He said the club offers nothing fancy.
“We use my grandfather’s old dairy farm that I currently run my business, Brian’s Farm Supply, out of,” Brian said. “We have a speed bag, an old heavy bag, and a double-end bag that we had to move the milk replacer to make room for.”
Ian described the set-up in one of several emails.
“Across the driveway in the barn through cow stalls and up the wooden ladder to the old hayloft is the boxing ring,” Ian said. “Rechargeable lights hang with baler twine from the retired hay conveyor above the ring.”
Brian said the club has sent a number of boxers to the Northern New England tournament, including Brayton Gillett, Travis Wilson, Kevin Brisson, Robbie Ketchum and Michelle Butterfield.
Gillett won the novice light heavyweight title in 2005 and compiled a 7-2 record with six knockouts. Gillett was among those who agreed to spar with Ian this fall and winter.
But long before then Ian began working toward his January boxing debut. He started this past summer, when he headed to the South as a Cabot/Agri-Mark “Traveling Summer Ambassador,” donating Cabot cheese to nonprofit groups and police officers and firefighters across the region.
He worked out in hotel gyms, using free weights and yoga mats, and “jumped rope in empty hotel parking spaces” to get in shape.
Back at UVM, weekend workouts in Cornwall were not enough. Ian needed to hone his boxing skills in the Burlington area. Brian contacted Farrar, who referred Ian to boxing veteran Mike Armstrong of Essex Junction. Armstrong, 72, had won the Vermont Golden Gloves several times, and in 1965 claimed the 132-pound title at the New England Golden Gloves tournament in Lowell, Mass. Armstrong took Ian under his wing.
“I would drive over to Mike’s place a few mornings a week, where I’d hit the speed, double-end, upper-cut, and heavy bags, as well as watch film,” Ian said. “Mike would watch and critique me as I worked around the bags. Working with an old Vermont and New England boxing legend like Mike made it feel like I was in a Rocky movie.”
Over the holiday break Ian returned to Cornwall to work with his dad on the former family farm — and in the Cornwall Town Hall. Ian said access to the town hall was critical when frigid weather struck.
“Sometimes it’s too cold to spar and work out in the hayloft ring, so I reached out to Sue Johnson, the Cornwall town clerk, and she lent me a key to the Cornwall Town Hall. I would do boxing workouts upstairs there with my dad,” he said.
Ian said he was grateful for the trust Johnson and the community showed to let them into the 137-year-old town hall.
“One evening I was jumping rope upstairs and thought, ‘It’s pretty cool that I’m allowed to come here and get some work in. This really is the Cornwall Boxing Club. Training there helped fuel my fire as I felt like I was representing and kind of fighting for the town. I have a lot of pride in being from Cornwall. When people ask where I’m from I don’t say I’m from Middlebury, it’s Cornwall,” Ian said.
IAN GILL, LEFT, Ian’s father Brian and Ian’s brother Adam pose in their Cornwall Boxing Club shirts in 2005. The Gill brothers often attended Golden Gloves competitions back in the day.
Photo courtesy of Ian Gill
Brian said Ian had to build up his stamina as well as sharpen his ring skills, and he hit the back roads or his uncle Jim’s basement treadmill to run.
“Cardio is a huge part of it, you have to have legs and lungs if you want to stand a chance out there,” Brian said.
Ian also dropped from more than 200 pounds to 174. Doing so allowed him to maximize his strengths, he said.
“My biggest advantage as a boxer is definitely my height and reach. I’m about six-three and long, so I’ve created my reach advantage by focusing on getting leaner so I could drop a couple of weight classes,” he said.
Ian worked out twice a day, at least for three hours, six or seven days a week.
“I made sure to do a lot of work on my core because I knew that the shorter guys I fight were going to try to take me out in the body,” Ian said.
He sparred with Gillett, Salisbury resident James Ploof, his dad, his uncle Jim (also a former light heavyweight Golden Gloves boxer), and one more fighter — Ferrisburgh’s Tyler Jacques, the 2017 Open Light Heavyweight Northern New England Golden Gloves Champion, who Brian recruited after a chance meeting in Middlebury.
“He’s a tough dude so I could hit him as hard as I wanted, which wasn’t often because he is so crafty with his head movement,” Ian said. “If I was landing a punch on Jacques, it usually meant I had to get hit with three or four to earn it. I got pounded on, and he toughened me up.”
READY TO RUMBLE
When it was time to fight, the Gill gang did not go to Burlington. Farrar retired in 2018 after 43 years of running the Northern New England Golden Gloves, and a new promoter moved the event to Somersworth, N.H.
Northern New England Golden Gloves winners go to the New England Golden Gloves in in Lowell, Mass., to compete against winners from three other New England regions for the New England title. Gill will fight there in the regional semi-final on Feb. 14, and if he wins that night, take a shot at the New England title on Feb. 21.
But first things first. After eight months of hard work, Ian felt ready for his first career fight, on Jan. 19 against Barrett Julian, 28, of Lewiston, Maine, in the tournament’s first round. He won by technical knockout when the referee called the fight in Ian’s favor at the end of the second round.
“I grazed the guy across the face with a wide right hook,” Ian said. “The punch didn’t fully land so I was a little surprised of the damage it caused, but they say the one you knock them out with is never the punch you expect. He wobbled backwards into his corner kind of in a daze.”
The championship bout came a week later, on Jan. 26 against Kyle Bertrand of Kennebunk, Maine, who had fought a half-dozen fights, but fewer than the 10 maximum for the novice division.
Ian won a 5-0 decision, but it wasn’t easy.
“The championship fight was a real barnburner, as we both exchanged a lot of blows. I took an absolute beating,” he said. “I got hit with a lot of big punches, but stuck my jab at him enough times and threw in my combinations when I could. It was ultimately enough to win me the decision.”
As hard as he had worked to prepare himself to fight, Ian said nothing can really get a boxer ready for the first bouts of a career.
“When you’re in the ring, you’re kind of like a deer in the headlights out there. It’s all happening so fast and you’re right there in the moment that you’ve spent so much time working for. I’m so fired up to be out there that I don’t feel the destruction of the punches all that much,” he said. “But my neck’s been feeling it pretty good the last few days.”
MORE TO COME
Both Brian and Ian expect the fights to be tougher in Lowell.
Ian said he needs to be smarter and move more.
“I need to pick my shots, because I don’t want to do what I did in the championship and just stand in the line of fire and go punch for punch with my opponent. I need to out-box him, not out-slug him,” he said.
His father added that Ian’s movement should be purposeful.
“He also needs to remember to circle counter-clockwise and away from his opponent’s power punch,” Brian said.
Ian said he is tempted by an invitation to the U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association tournament in March at Syracuse University, despite a retirement promise made to two “concerned grandmothers” that the Golden Gloves run would end his career.
“I don’t believe anyone in UVM history has ever competed in the nationals, plus the champion wins a belt, which would be cool to hang up in the barn.” Ian said. “But for right now we’re just focused on Lowell.”
No matter what happens in Lowell, Brian and Ian Gill say they have created memories that will last a lifetime.
“Being able to work with a son on a project like this is one of the best bonding experiences that a father and a son could have,” Brian said. “We’ve had a lot of fun together.”
And it sounds like Ian’s dreams have already been fulfilled.
“There’s something special about walking from the locker room and into the ring with your dad as your coach. It’s intense going to war with your old man. It’s not something a lot of people get to say they’ve done with their father,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anyone else in my corner.”
Ian Gill contributed the family quotes, pictures, and considerable other information to this article. Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.
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