Leo Randolph leaves his ringside seat during an intermission at the 68th annual Tacoma Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament.
He’s sharply dressed in a suit, an almost constant beaming smile present on his face.
The University of Puget Sound Memorial Fieldhouse is packed as the best amateur boxers in the Pacific Northwest compete inside the ring, and everyone in attendance takes notice when Randolph, a Tacoma native and 1976 Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist, walks through the crowd.
Randolph can’t take two steps without someone approaching him. Numerous individuals shout out his name as he strolls by. He never turns down a handshake and always returns the hello back.
“This event means a lot. It always gets me going,” said Randolph, who defeated Ricardo Cardona for the World Boxing Association Super Bantamweight championship in 1980. “You get to see old friends. It brings back old memories from back in the day when you were boxing. It’s just a great atmosphere here.”
Randolph is without question one of the area’s most successful boxing stories. And it all started at the Tacoma Boxing Club.
Randolph currently serves as a mentor with the Tacoma Boxing Club, tutoring young athletes in the sweet science.
The club has been under the guidance of head coach Tom Mustin, who was also a coach on US Boxing’s Olympic team at the 2000 Sydney Games, since 1974.
Under the tutelage of Mustin, aided by long-time club manager Emmett Linton, the Tacoma Boxing Club has been one of the most successful amateur organizations on the West Coast, consistently producing national champions as evident by Mustin’s tally of guiding more than 40 local boxers to national amateur titles during his tenure.
The championships and gold medals are always the ultimate goal, but for Mustin and his staff, outside the ring, it’s been more about providing the community’s youth with a positive environment.
“Parents don’t want their kids sitting around playing video games all day. So they bring them out and get them into boxing,” Mustin said. “Sometimes that doesn’t always work; sometimes it does work really well. We’ve had some really great kids come through this program who have been really successful and I think it’s because of guys like Leo Randolph. Leo comes in once a week and works with the kids and these kids can see an honest to God gold medal winner. They can put their sites on maybe accomplishing that as well someday.”
Randolph, however, is hardly the only high-profile Tacoma boxer to make frequent appearances in Mustin’s gym as many former Tacoma Boxing Club greats, such as Olympic Gold Medalist Sugar Ray Seales, multiple national amateur champion Davey Armstrong and former World Boxing Association Super Lightweight champion Johnny Bumpus, have been around to assist with the training over the years.
“Johnny doesn’t get around like he used to, but he wants me to pick him up every day and take him to the gym,” Mustin said about Bumpus, who won the National Golden Gloves featherweight title under Mustin’s watch in 1979. “He likes to come in there and sit during practices every day. He just wants to be part of the Tacoma Boxing Club and help out.”
Mustin’s most recent champions include 13-year-old Hayley Roberts, the 2015 Junior National PAL champion in the 95-pound female division, and 12-year-old Harley Cuevas, a junior National Golden Gloves champion.
The Tacoma Boxing Club, which is open to males and females between the ages of 8 and 34, has traditionally dominated the Tacoma Golden Gloves tournament where the club has captured the overall team title in 30 out of the last 35 years.
The club added two more titles to its already gaudy list of past winners this year, getting championships from heavyweight Matthew Mollet and 152-pound Kevin Torres, who was named the tournament’s Golden Boy, which is given annually to the event’s outstanding fighter.
“This event is all about the kids. From the TAC’s perspective, that’s why we do this event. Because the dollars we make from this event helps support the boxing club throughout the year,” said Tony Anderson of the Tacoma Athletic Commission. “It’s a great community event for kids. We want to help them do something positive. Especially today, that’s more important than ever. We don’t want them on the streets. We want them in the gym. We want them learning some leadership skills. Athletics teach are youths a lot of great things.”
Mustin’s work has hardly gone unnoticed as he has been recognized with numerous national and local awards with the most recent coming this year with his induction into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame.
“I think working with kids is keeping me and Emmett young because we’re both cruising on 70,” Mustin said. “It gives me something to do. I get out of the house every day. I hope the program still goes on when I’m out of it, but I’m going to stay in as long as I can.”