Back in the ring

Amateur boxers anticipate Fight Night 2

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— Gary "Froggy" Saunders was a 17-year-old amateur when he met two of the most successful middleweight boxers of all time who told him to quit fighting.

Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio, who are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, were at a car show in Denver for a promotional appearance in 1959.

Saunders, who fought out of Denver as an amateur, went to see the fighters at the car show.

When he approached them to ask them for their autographs, Saunders said he briefly chatted with the fighters who gave Saunders a piece of advice: "Quit boxing," they said.

Saunders said he listened to the ring veterans, who each held the middleweight title during their careers.

They both scored decisions over Sugar Ray Robinson to win the middleweight championship.

Fullmer twice TKO'd Basilio, who also was a welterweight champ. Both boxers ended their careers in the early 1960s.

"He could take his nose and bend it clear across his face," Saunders said of Fullmer.

Saunders said the fighters told him to stop boxing because it was a brutal sport that didn't pay well. "Stick with cutting meat," they told him.

Saunders, a 59-year-old butcher who works at City Market, hung up his gloves shortly after running into his idols, he said.

On Sunday, Saunders will get back into the ring for the first time in 42 years to box in Steamboat's Fight Night 2.

Fight Night 2, a tough-man competition that features 27 men and four women,will be held at Romick Arena starting at 3 p.m.

Nearly 600 tickets have been sold for the boxing show, which is scheduled to run until about 6 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door for $15 apiece.

Four boxers will fight in Saunders' division, Fight Night 2, promoter Tara Nultemeier said.

All of the boxers in the tournament have little fighting experience, she said.

Saunders, who has been a meat cutter in the retail grocery business for much of his life, started boxing at age 10 in his backyard.

As a kid, he would watch Friday night fights on television with his grandfather, who turned him onto the sport.

Saunders would round up his neighborhood buddies who would get together and box in a homemade ring.

They built the ring out of four poles that were held up by rope.

"If somebody fell against the ropes, the whole ring came down," Saunders said.

Saunders went on to fight in the Golden Gloves amateur boxing organization at age 16 at 126 pounds.

Another big reason he dropped out of the sport an early age, he said, was because he had two children to raise.

After a 42-year layoff, Saunders is anticipating getting back into the ring, he said.

He will be fighting in the men's 40-plus division at about 160 pounds.

"I think they kind of leveled the playing field by having a senior division," Saunders said. "I feel like I've always been in great shape because I've been a gym rat my whole life."

Saunders said he knows that fighting at age 59 poses a risk of getting hurt. However, he said, by being paired against opponents close to his own age, it gives him less to worry about.

"I just hope my boxing ability is as good as my stare down," he said.

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