Houston Boxing Legacy

howard mena, reggie johnson, kenny weldon, manny recio, bob jordan

Houston, and it’s boxing participants have a long history of being involved in boxing at it’s highest levels. This photo is a great example of that as Howard Mena, Manny Recio, Bob Jordan and Kenny Weldon stand with Three Time World Champion Reggie Johnson, as he readies for a bout.

Reggie would manage to obtain World Champion status on three occasions and at two different weight classes, (middleweight and light heavyweight), and fought the best fighters of his time. Many of Reggie’s loses were disputable and he proved to the world of boxing once again, that Houston develops some of the best boxing talent in the world. A few of the esteemed opponents Reggie faced in his career include: Ismael Negron, Sanderline Williams, Eddie Hall, James “Lights Out” Toney, “Irish” Steve Collins, Lamar Parks, John David Jackson, Jorge Castro, William Guthrie, Roy Jones Jr, Antonio Tarver, and the late Julio Cesar Gonzalez.

I’d like to thank the family of Kenny Weldon, Howard Mena, David Martinez Jr,  Dwayne Muhammad, Ernest Tobias, Warren Williams, Ray Zaragoza, Thomas Smith, Jesse Valdez, Walt Hailey,  Henry Harris Jr, Melvin Dennis, and a few others I know I’m forgetting, for their generosity in sharing pictures, stories, names, dates, and facts with Clutch City Boxing as we work hard to give recognition and appreciation to our Houston Boxing Legends.  Thank you for reading, commenting, and enjoying this journey with us and stay tuned for upcoming stories, bios, and Houston boxing history. I was able to speak at length with Reggie Johnson at his recent Reggie Johnson Amateur Tournament and we are both excited to collaborate soon on an article about his first boxing trainer and long time Houston boxing Coach, Official, and Legend, Mr. James Carter of The Salvation Army Boxing Club.

Benny “The Ghetto Wizard” Leonard

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Benny Leonard, arguably the greatest lightweight in boxing history, as well as one of the best boxers in history, held the lightweight title for 7 years and 6 and a half months, from 1917 until 1925. Leonard’s record stood until broken by Roberto Duran, another candidate for greatest lightweight ever, in the 1970’s. Leonard fought in an era of newspaper decisions and no-contests bouts and is thought to have had over 200 bouts in total, with only 21 loses on record. Leonard lost 3 of his first 13 bouts but would later turn his career around and become one of the most successful boxers in history.   

 Leonard got his start fighting in the streets of New York as a means of self-defense, when he was in his early adolescence. His uncles taught him boxing so that he could survive those street fights without having to resort to using weapons as some of the local brawlers had become accustomed to. Before long Leonard became adept at not only defending himself but became an excellent boxer and began participating in “bootleg” boxing matches at the age of 12, at The Silver Heel Club. The “bootleg” boxing matches were held in clubs around New York and were fought for small purses for the fighters, and betting between the friends and associates of the respective neighborhood boxers. Leonard continued participating in these “bootleg” boxing matches for three years, which served as his amateur career, then began boxing professionally at the age of 15 in 1911. 

 Leonard actually lost his first professional fight by knockout, then dedicated his time and efforts into becoming the best boxer he could be. Leonard became a master boxer who could win the majority of his bouts without receiving major damage and was also a strong puncher with both hands. Leonard approached boxing as a profession in that he felt he needed to spend the majority of his day in the gym perfecting his craft, working on his skills, and also watching other boxers spar and work out, to learn any movements he felt he could incorporate into his repertoire. Leonard also was a master strategist who perfected using psychological tactics to defeat opponents of every imaginable style.  

 So how does an early 1900’s Jewish boxer from New York figure into the boxing legacy of Houston, Texas? For a significant portion of his prime boxing years Benny Leonard trained at the famous Stillman’s Boxing Gym, where he became friends with and shared his knowledge and professional approach to boxing with a then young trainer named Bill Gore. Gore as I’ve mentioned in previous articles would later train and/or work with a virtual who’s who of Houston boxing legends when he and his business partner Lou Viscusi moved their boxing operations to Houston in the mid 1950’s. The Gore/Viscusi influence began at that time in several different downtown gyms including the famous A&B Boxing Gym owned by Bud Adams and Hugh Benbo, which is referred to by the old school Houston boxing legends as Benbo’s Gym, or Benbo’s Downtown Gym. Their influence would continue directly up until the late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s with the Height’s Boxing Gym and will always be a part of Houston boxing through all of the legendary boxers and trainers involved with them through those years. 

 There are too many names to list of the known and some not so known Houston boxing participants that were involved with Gore and Viscusi throughout the years but some of the names include Kenny Weldon, Termite Watkins, Roy Harris, and Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams. Joe “Old Bones” Brown and Manny Gonzalez, not from Houston but who lived and trained here with Gore at Benbo’s Gym, also helped teach and work with many Houston and Houston area boxers. Joe” Old Bones” Brown trained Kenny Weldon for a while when Bill Gore died, and Manny Gonzalez has been credited with helping Jesse Valdez perfect some of his pristine footwork. Through some of these connections many boxers from the area benefited from the Benny Leonard/ Bill Gore influence through their training with Weldon, Watkins, and Harris and the respected programs and gyms they operated, and still operate but there would still be more to come. 

 Lou and Richard Viscusi would later open The Height’s Gym in the 1980’s where many Houston boxers and trainers undoubtedly felt the Benny Leonard/Bill Gore influence. Again, there are too many names to remember but a few of the names include, Al Boulden, Pops Richards, Gary Simons, Ezzard Charles Adams, Creed Fountain, Willie Boyd, Hector Rocha, Raul Marquez, David Donis, Edward “Pee Wee” Parker, Ulysses Boulware, David Gonzalez, Sergio Donis, Cliff Jacobs, Benny Q, Thomas Tate, and Lee Canalito. Benny Leonard’s analytical and scientific approach to boxing has and will continue to influence generation after generation of Houston boxers and trainers, something we can be very proud of as we continue dominating the State, National, and World boxing rankings. 

Kenny Weldon

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kenny weldon, galena park boxing, houston boxing legacy, bill gore, benny leonard, willie pep

Kenny Weldon started boxing as an amateur in Houston in 1953. A native of Galena Park, Texas, Kenny had an amateur record of 216-11, winning 4 Houston Golden Gloves Titles in the process and also competing in the State and National Golden Gloves Tournaments as well as the Pan American Games, before turning pro in 1968. As a pro, Kenny went 50-7-1 claiming the Texas Featherweight Title and N.A.B.F. Super Featherweight title before retiring as a fighter in 1978.

Kenny’s greatest accomplishments, however, came as a coach. A protege of all-time great trainer Bill Gore, who was a Benny Leonard protege, Kenny was taught an analytical and scientific approach to boxing that allowed him to become one of the most successful boxing teachers in the history of the sport.  The program he established at The Galena Park Boxing Academy produced 316 Houston Golden Gloves Champions, 51 Texas State Amateur Champions, 17 National Amateur Champions, 3 Pan Am Medalists, and 3 Olympians. Kenny also served as a coach for The U.S. Olympic Team in 1988.

Gilbert Renteria, currently ranked in the top 10 of the USA Boxing, Elite Men’s 114 pound Division, is one of the last boxers to be directly trained by Kenny Weldon, who is still active in the amateurs. Renteria will undoubtedly become a professional Champion in the future, and will continue to add to the Kenny Weldon and Houston boxing legacies.  

As a professional coach, Kenny cornered 18 world title fights with Hall of Famers such as Evander Holyfield, Vinny Pazienza, Orlando Canizales, Mike McCallum, Raul Marquez and Pernell Whitaker, as well as local legends like Wilford Scypion, Termite Watkins, Mike Phelps, James Pipps, Joel Perez, Stephen Martinez and Lewis Wood.

Always a fierce advocate for teaching proper fundamentals, Kenny also authored one of the top selling boxing intructional videos of all time.
Kenny retired from boxing for health reasons in 2013, but his impact can still be felt in the Houston boxing scene with a host of his former fighters and students now operating gyms of their own.

The Whole Point is to Hit and Not Get Hit in Return

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Bill Gore protege Willie Pep.  One of the best defensive boxers in history.

Boxing is a tough sport but a person’s approach to the sport can make boxing tougher than it has to be.  A persons approach should be to give, while doing their best not to receive. Why would you allow yourself to get hit when you don’t have to? If you want to bleed, get bruised up, and show how tough you are by taking damage, join an MMA school. Boxing, in it’s purest form, is a smart man’s game, not a tough man’s game.  Not that you have to be a college professor to be able to understand boxing, but you do have to be able to be smart enough to think of keeping yourself from getting hurt, before you think about the many ways to hurt your opponent.

Willie Pep, one of the greatest defensive fighters in history, was a Bill Gore protege who’s boxing knowledge lineage can be traced back to another defensive wizard, Benny Leonard, who helped teach Gore boxing. As I’ve stated before in earlier articles, Bill Gore taught many Houston and Houston area boxers during the time he spent in Houston. One of Gore’s students was famed boxer and teacher of boxing Kenny Weldon, who is likely not only one of the most accomplished boxing trainers ever, he also is likely the most emulated person in Houston when it comes to teaching boxing.

With Kenny Weldon’s contributions to boxing and boxing instruction in Houston, along with the many other outstanding and accomplished boxers and trainers that Bill Gore taught who also have taught and still teach boxing in Houston, there is absolutely no reason why a boxing school, trainer, or boxer should adhere to the “face-first” style of boxing enjoyed by boxing neophytes. If you walk into a boxing gym and notice boxers beating each other half to death in the ring, while other boxers shadowbox in the mirror with most of their weight on their lead leg, and over their lead foot, with the Coaches giving little or no instruction to anyone but their “competition” boxers, turn around and walk out as fast as you can.  Leave and don’t ever go back. I don’t care what credentials they may have or how long they have been doing it, they have been doing it wrong.

And for guys that have been boxing and maybe still don’t understand the point of sparring, it’s a learning exercise not a place to get beat up. Be smart not only in the ring but also outside the ring. If you are being used by a Coach as a crash dummy, taking unnecessary damage, so that one of his favorites can boost his confidence while your confidence is in the dumps, again walk away, your health and best interests are not being respected or protected. The Coach there either is unqualified to be teaching boxing and is ignorant to the fact he’s not protecting you, or he is consciously using you, your health, and self-esteem to boost those of someone else. Think about that the next time you leave the ring from sparring, with a black eye, bruised, and beat up.

The Greatest, Three Knockdowns, and Third Ward, Houston, Texas


Muhammad Ali was and will always be cosmically tied to Houston, Texas as many important events in his life took place in our town, and he spent a considerable amount of time here training and promoting his fights. 

His earliest introduction to the consciousness of the Houston and Houston area boxing scene may have been as Cassius Clay, when he beat Cut ‘N’ Shoot’s Henry Harris Jr. in the light-heavyweight semi-finals of the 1960 National Golden Gloves Tournament. Of course, even if Ali had not spent a considerable amount of time in Houston, he would still have always been connected to us via the October 30, 1974, Rumble in the Jungle, where he knocked out our own George Foreman in the eighth round. For this unlikely win alone we may have never forgotten the name of Muhammad Ali, but we were privileged enough to have him compete in Houston four times throughout the 60’s and 70’s, beating Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, Ernie Terrell, Jimmy Ellis, and Buster Mathis. His refusal to be drafted into the military and ultimate indictment took place in Houston as well as he had temporarily resided in Houston at that time.  

Ali also filmed many scenes of the movie “The Greatest” in Houston in 1976, but his GREATEST contribution to our great city and local boxing legacy took place in 1971, when he promoted and participated in a sparring match with Houston boxer, coach, and youth advocate Reverend Ray Martin Sr. The sparring match was heavily promoted and was Ali’s way of supporting Reverend Ray Martin and his Progressive Amateur Boxing Association (P.A.B.A). Martin had established The P.A.B.A. in Houston’s Third Ward, as a means to keep our local youth off the streets, away from drugs and in the ring, and at the time did not have very much support or recognition both locally and nationwide. The sparring match took place at The Houston Astrohall, where Ali was “knocked down” by Martin three times. Ali not only pretended to be knocked down three times during the match to help bring support and recognition to Reverend Martin, he also would continue to promote the Reverend and The P.A.B.A. by “calling out” Martin on television and radio whenever he was in town, saying he wanted a rematch with the Reverend and that the Reverend had “Got lucky and knocked me down”! The Champ would also claim he had slipped and promised to send, “The good Reverend to heaven by seven”!  

This kind, generous, and extraordinary act was just one of many of the genuinely GREAT things that Ali did in his lifetime but it left a lasting legacy of love and positivity that continues to bless Houston, and in particular Houston’s Third Ward to this day! Ali’s generosity, heart, courage, and love for his fellow man is what made him “The Greatest” above any of the many accomplishments in boxing he achieved, in my opinion, and I hope this article helps people understand the true GREATNESS of Muhammad Ali!  



Coach Santos Montemayor

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Magnolia “Y” Golden Glove Champions

Here is a photo of one of Houston boxing’s legendary coaches, Coach Santos Montemayor, with a few of his 1960’s and 1970’s Golden Gloves Champions. Coach Montemayor trained his boxers out of The Magnolia YWCA for many years before retiring and definitely has been a lifelong, positive influence on many in the Houston area and The Magnolia Barrio in Houston’s East End. Since I’ve been researching and interviewing some of the old-timers in Houston boxing history, I’ve heard lots of impressive things about Coach Montemayor and his Magnolia “Y” boxers. I hope to be able to write up a full article on Coach Montemayor at a later time and maybe even an interview. Here is Coach Montemayor with some of the boxers he has made lifelong connections and friendships with, at a dinner held in his and his wife’s honor, given by one of his boxers.  

All of these fighters participated in The Houston Golden Gloves at least once. Four in the photo won The Houston Golden Gloves at least once. Several in the photo won twice and David Martinez Jr and Oscar Trevino won a total of 4 and 5 times! There are at least 6 ex-Magnolia “Y” Golden Glove Champions not in the picture, as well as Joe Louis Valdez, who we highlighted before, not pictured in this photo but trained by Coach Santos Montemayor.  Pictured in this photo along with Coach Montemayor and his wife Rosie are, David Martinez Jr, Oscar Trevino, Fred Garza, Terry Torrence, Jesse Baraza, Johnny Juarez, Elias Gomez, Oscar Rodriguez, Joel Ramirez and Abraham Espinoza.  


Tomorrow is Too Late

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This article is in no way a business or sales tactic as my participation in boxing is not related to the way I support myself and family, which is in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning business with Clutch City Air-Conditioning, and also working for and with Bishop Refrigeration. This information is genuinely how I feel boxing has enhanced my life and can be very beneficial for anyone and everyone. Clutch City Boxing and The Clutch City Boxing Club were born when I decided to participate in boxing again and wanted to share the positive things I got from boxing with others, because well, it’s just the right thing to do when a person has put as much time and effort into boxing as I have. I have nothing negative to say about anyone invloved in boxing or how they approach boxing but Clutch City Boxing is about building Champions in life more than Champions in the ring. Myself, and anyone who can and will call themselves a part of The Clutch City Boxing family will always be more concerned with using boxing to bring positivity, happiness, and health to the lives of others, than whether or not a person can win boxing matches. With that being said let’s talk about what boxing can do for you.

Your health is number one because once your health is gone, you can’t buy it back. This reminds me of the scene in Godfather 2 when Hyman Roth, a very wealthy and successful person, tells Micheal Corleone, “I’d give four million just to be able to take a piss without it hurting”. Let’s face it, many of us, including Coaches, start to let ourselves go physically as we get older because of many reasons. Some reasons are legitimate such as we have to earn a living and support a family, for slowing down on exercise, but no reasons are good enough to stop exercising and stop taking care of ourselves!
Although we may not be able to give exercise and healthy living as much time and effort as we did when we were younger and had less responsibilities, we can still always do something to ensure our continued health. Even 20 to 30 minutes of exercise is 100% better than no exercise, and I know that no matter how busy we are, we can “spare” 20 to 30 minutes to invest in the most important thing in life other than our respected faiths and families, our health! There is absolutley no excuse not to take care of our health if we indeed have faith, value life, love our familes and ourselves, and wish to bring goodness into the world and those around us. When you take care of your body, your mind and spirit respond as well, and things become easier to handle. You will also just feel better and look better, which will help you be a better person for yourself and to others. If you aren’t healthy and start to have health problems, you are limiting the things you can do for yourself, the people you love, and the world. Don’t tell me you love your significant other, children, family, friends, or yourself if you aren’t working to be in the best health you possibly can, because I will have to say you are lying to me and to yourself. Either that or you say you love the people I mentioned and yourself, but you don’t love them enough to want to be healthy so you can be here for them for as long as you possibly can. Most of all don’t forget that if you don’t invest in yourself now, you will be “investing” in medical bills, medicine, and spending lots of time in doctor’s offices and hospitals later if you are living an unhealthy lifestyle.

There are many more positive aspects boxing training can bring to you but I will just talk about one more for now because it’s one that is very beneficial and important to everyone. The thing I am talking about is the fellowship that boxing brings to our lives. When I say fellowship I mean the relationships and friendships we make with others when we share a common bond that is not in any way easy, like boxing training.Those relationships and friendships bring life lessons, safety, knowledge, experiences we may not have had, positive influences, lasting connections, conversations, understanding of others, and soo many other things that are infinetly more important and valuable than winning boxing matches. Many of us invloved in boxing come from blue collar backgrounds and possibly areas of town and life that do not encourage or value positivity and knowledge because we just get so caught up in earning a living and surviving. Boxing, at least for me, gave me a place where even if I never made World Champion status, I could at least dream and work towards a dream, and feel like I mattered and was worthy of all the good things in life because I was taking responsibility of myself and working to be more than I was or than where I was in life. The tenets we learn in boxing that we are taught can bring us closer to our dreams, are equally or maybe even more important than anything we achieve through boxing training. Learning about respect for ourselves and others should be number one in any decent boxing program and gym. My old Taekwon-Do teachers tenets of, Courtesy, Integrity, Perserverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit also apply to boxing and should be a big part of any boxing program.

I personally am not impressed when a boxing program or gym has people that are successful in the ring, but are disrespectful, rude, arrogant, bigoted, dishonest and just generally unppleasant people in life. This more than anything else is a clear sign to me that whoever is behind that program or gym, does not understand boxing fully, and is in my opinion, a beginner, regardless of any material successes their programs, gyms, and/or ideologies may have won them.

Most times though, all the good things I’ve mentioned and more are taught and learned in our boxing gyms and programs, and this is what I believe is the most important thing we get out of boxing training, after the health benefits I mentioned before. A good Coach will encourage the things that will bring the type of people around him that you will be able to make friends with and have fellowship with, that will bring you soo much more than just getting in shape will. Meeting and spending time around people that believe in taking responsibility for themselves, wanting to be a better person, and helping themselves and others, is golden. It’s defintely more valuable than any gym or traning fees you may pay. The investment you make not only monetarily but with your effort and time will more than pay off in the long run.

For these reasons I decided to participate in boxing again and I believe boxing training can benefit everyone. You don’t have to box or be a boxer to benefit from boxing, all you have to do is be willing to put the work in and you will see results. If you want to be healthier, lose weight, learn to defend yourself, be a better person, box for fun or box competitively, Clutch City Boxing and the Clutch City Boxing Club can help you with all those things. Don’t be the person that encourages one thing to others, then shows them something entirely different. Take action and work towards being a better person every day. We are here to help you with all these things but if you don’t call us, find someone who offers this type of environment and approach to boxing and/or exercise and start today because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

Houston Golden Gloves Boxing Legends

  Houston Golden Gloves Boxing Legends 

Clutch City Boxing will award a free Clutch City Boxing T-Shirt to the first  person that can identify these two legendary Houston Golden Gloves Boxing  Champions. One of these legends won a total of 1 Novice Division and 3 Open  Division Championships! The other legend won 5 Open Division Championships! 

Both legends have been continuously mentioned among several others that we  will also recognize at a later time, as two of the finest boxers to ever  compete in The Houston Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament.   

To win you must reply directly to the original post at clutchcityboxing.com 

Prize can be mailed to you or you can pick it up at The Grind Boxing Academy  and Fitness Center at 18075 West Little York, Katy, Texas 77449.  

2018 Texas State Champions

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2018 Texas State Champions 

The Gulf LBC Team represented Houston and the Houston area very well again this year at the Texas State Golden Gloves, held in Fort Worth, Texas. Our 2018 Houston Golden Gloves, Open Division Champions were able to dominate the State Championships once again, having the entire team advancing to the semi-finals, five team members becoming Texas State Champions, and winning the best team trophy for the 6th consecutive year. 

Our local boxers also did very well at this year’s USA Western Qualifier Tournament, with Austin Williams and Ephraim Bui winning their divisions, and others losing close, disputed decisions. All of our competitors performed very well and proved once again that Houston develops the best boxing talent in the state and country. Clutch City Boxing would like to thank all of the boxers, coaches, and officials in the Gulf LBC for all of the hard work they do day in and day out to continue the legendary Houston boxing legacy!  

This year’s Texas State Golden Gloves Champions are:  

Ephraim Bui            108 pounds  

Martel Washpun   123 pounds 

Oscar Perez            132 pounds 

Alex Donis              152 pounds 

Darius Fulghum     201 pounds  

This year’s USA Western Qualifier Champions are:  

Ephraim Bui          108 pounds 

Austin Williams    165 pounds 



El Tigre Promotions, April 14 Fight Card in Galveston, Texas, Galveston Fight Night

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This writer and Mike Klekotta will be representing The Clutch City Boxing Club on this card versus hometown favorite Andy Patina. I have been training Mike mentally, physically, and spiritually to perform up to his capabilities and we plan on bringing action and surprises on fight night!  Come out and see us, see some quality boxing, and support local, professional boxing. Let’s work together to give our boxers opportunities to get quality bouts and develop their professional skills at home or close to home. Contact El Tigre Promotions for tickets at www.eltigrepromotions.com