‘Gumby’ Comes Full Circle: Windsor Boxer Chris Gilbert Receives a Hero’s Welcome in His Hometown
Nieko Clow, of Claremont, keeps warm a few minutes before his match while eyeing the ring at Windsor Recreational Center in Windsor last night. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Khiary Gray, of Worcester, Mass., ties his shoe while observing a match and waiting for his own at Windsor Recreational Center last night. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Windsor — For the first time in his professional career, Windsor boxer Chris Gilbert didn’t have to travel for a fight. Those in town made him feel at home.
A packed house at Windsor Recreation Center gymnasium came to cheer on Gilbert last night as the Windsor Boxing Club hosted seven amateur and two pro fights.
It was the first time Windsor had hosted a fight night since the first round of the Rocky Marciano amateur tournament five years ago, and the first time pro fights were held there.
Gilbert, a 28-year old welterweight, improved to 7-0 as a professional with a TKO win over Raymond Virmontes, of Worcester, Mass., in the main event. Heavyweights Nick Cyr and Ramon Bermudez squared off in another pro bout.
Gilbert gained a healthy advantage with a flurry of body and head shots late in the fifth round of a scheduled six-round fight.
With fatigue settling in on both fighters by the fourth round, Gilbert responded with a resurgent burst in the fifth. He shook off Virmontes’ attempts at stalling the match with holding maneuvers and countered with furious punches to the roar of the home crowd.
After the round was complete, Virmontes’ corner retired for the TKO and Gilbert threw an upper cut through the air in celebration. Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust blared over the public address system as Gilbert stayed undefeated.
A 2011 national Golden Gloves quarterfinalist as an amateur, Gilbert entered last night’s fight with a pro record of 6-0, including five knockouts. He was elated to be fighting in the same gym where he honed his skills with WBC and now serves as one of the organization’s coaches.
“This is perfect,” Gilbert said prior to Friday’s weigh-in. “It takes away all of the stress of having to travel, for me as well as my family and supporters.”
Gilbert’s support network is large, and many people helped to make sure last night’s event went smoothly. Gilbert’s mother and former coach, Beth O’Brien, promoted the event and took on many of the organizational duties. She even had T-shirts made displaying Gilbert’s nickname, “Gumby,” which family gave to him when he was a kids.
“It’s because he never stopped flapping his gums,” O’Brien said. “He’s always been a talker.”
Supporters had plenty to talk about last night while anticipating Gilbert’s first home pro fight. His brother, Mark Gilbert, and friends Shawn and Tiffany Hunt handled the gate, saying they’d counted more than 200 heads a half-hour before the first fight.
By the time Maine’s Nicky Petronio took on fellow female novice Natalia Espaillat in the opening bout, the gym’s 400 bleacher seats were filled, along with many of the ringside seats that fans paid up to $40 to sit in.
All proceeds benefited WBC, a nonprofit that today trains nine amateur fighters, according to assistant coach Andrew Carmichael.
“We’ve had amateur fights here in the past, but this is a whole new ball game tonight,” Carmichael said. “To see the regulation-sized ring in the middle of the floor and have all these people come out to watch boxing, and specifically to watch Chris box, is pretty special. You have to feel good when you see all the spectators coming out to support him.”
A two-time Vermont Golden Gloves champion and regional finalist two years ago, Gilbert turned pro in the summer of 2011. It hasn’t been easy for him to get fights scheduled, sometimes having to buy his way onto cards for fights at least 90 minutes away. The motivation is to get rounds under his belt, build up his record and garner more attention.
“I’m not making a lot of money, but that’s really not the point right now,” said Gilbert, who doubles as grounds manager at Hartland’s Sunnymede Farm.
“If I was in it for the money, I probably would have quit by now or gotten into a fight where I was way over my head and gotten hurt. If the money is going to come, it’s going to come later, but I’m fine with that because it’s not why I fight.”
In the other pro bout, South Boston’s Cyr counted out Bermudez, of Albany, N.Y., in the first round.
Five of the seven amateur matches ended in decisions, with Espaillat edging Petrino in the women’s bout.
Heavyweight novice Chris Sarro, of Searsport, Maine, beat Denton Getchivs of Somersworth, N.H. before Portland, Maine’s Chi Wong edged John Ward of Keene, N.H. in a taut 132-pound battle.
Claremont’s Neiko Clow beat Rashane Doyle, of Boston, in a 165-pound match. Jason Quirk, of Portland, Maine, beat Khory Pitts, of Worcester, Mass., by decision in a 178-pound match. In the second match of the night, Myontay Ross, of Boston beat Springfield, Vt.’s Bob Gleason when referees retired the match in favor of Ross. South Boston’s Julio Capusano was awarded a TKO win over Springfield, Vt., fighter Matthew Thibeault in a 178-pound match.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.