By David Martinez / Boxing Historian
This is a story about Ray Owens, my friend and an amazing man who in 1968 was the founder of GATHERING OF ANGELS. This group is now known as the Golden State Boxers Association, and is the longest running organized boxing club in the United States.
As a member of the Golden State Boxers Association, I met Ray Owens at a meeting several months ago and I was just simply overwhelmed by the man. He is humble, sensible, and so knowledgeable about boxing.
So for those who don’t know, let me present a capsule look at what started thirty almost thirty nine years ago.
On August 23, 1968, the Don Hotel in Wilmington, California, was the stage for the first Los Angeles-based gathering of boxers past and present. The intent of this gala event was to just renew old acquaintances, and, for chairman Ray Owens to begin to take the necessary steps for the creation of a pension plan and trust fund for retired boxers.
Some of the boxers that were present were Ace Hudkins, Noble “Kid” Chissell, Ever Hammer, Jimmy McLarwin, Tommy Nelson, Bobo Olson, Mushy Callahan, Tommy Randell, Georgie Levine, Gil Cadilli, Kenny La Salle, Clarence Henry, Goldie Hess, Rudy Garza, Davey Gallardo, Dado Marino, just to name a few.
Other boxing greats such as Max Schemeling, Ralph Dupas, Jack Sharky, Ray Lunny, Fridel La Barba, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Archie Moore, Ring Magazine editor Nat Fleischer, and ring announcer Don Dunphy sent letters and telegrams that were read expressing their support.
The first ever top honor trophy given by the organization was presented to oldest ex-fighter alive – a man who had lived in the nearby San Fernando Valley – former Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard. However, because of his declining health at 88 years of age, Jess was not able to attend. Noble “Kid” Chissell, a dear friend of Willard’s, accepted the trophy, as a standing-room only crowd of over 200 people applauded in his honor.
The original name, GATHERING OF ANGELS, came about in an interesting way. Ray Owens saw the 1938 James Cagney movie, “Angles with Dirty Faces”, which also starred Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and the Dead End Kids. From that movie and it’s title came the inspiration for the name of his new boxing organization.
The name GATHERING OF ANGELS stayed with the group for two years until, in 1970, it was changed to it’s current title: The Golden State Boxers Association.
At it’s conception back in 1968, Owens had no idea that this organization would still be alive and well today, and he credits the support team of men such as Willie Bean, Clarence Henry, Davey Gallardo, Frank Gill, Tom Randall and Kenny La Salle for their assistance and for being instrumental in it’s operation in the early days.
On August 12, 2007 will mark the 39th anniversary of the GATHERING OF ANGELS / Golden State Boxers Association. On this date, the city of Angels, Los Angeles, California will be the host for the organization’s “banquet of champions” luncheon, with two of it’s living original members in attendance for this very special day: Willie Bean and Ray Owens.
For more information regarding this event, please contact the Golden State Boxers Association: president Larry Montalvo @ (323) 268-6830 or secretary Josie Mejia @ (562) 861-0313.