LEWISTON — Trainer Glenn Cugno sounds like a proud father of a large brood when he discusses his stable of amateur boxers who recently won the Golden Gloves in Burlington, Vt.

Several of Cugno’s amateurs started coming to the Gamache Boxing Club to get in shape before they decided to trade blows with an opponent who means business when the bell rings.

Winning at the Golden Gloves was no small feat for this rough-and-tumble bunch, which has been training with Cugno for just about a year.

They have come far in just 12 months. So what is the secret to their sudden prosperity in the ring?

“Well, they listen real well,” Cugno said as he watched boxers slip through the door while a cold March wind howled outside. “None of them are here just to get in shape. They all want to be fighters. It makes it easy when you have a bunch who really want to learn.”

There will be no down time for his boxers. The Cugno team will be engaged in a variety of fights during April.

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Isaac Escobar (132-pound class), Hannah Rodrigue (119), Achelas Ankers (178), Rory Stapleton (152) and Justin Rolfe (super heavyweight) fought their way to Golden Glove status. Emily Mousseau, 15, of Lewiston, won a junior title bout and Gabe Escobar recently won the Silver Mittens in Billerica, Mass.

Some boxers might turn pro at the drop of a hat, but none is entertaining thoughts of doing so — in mixed martial arts or otherwise — for the moment.

“I am not turning anybody pro unless they until they’ve had about 60, 80 amateur fights,” Cugno said. “My theory is, this is the learning period they need. If they are going to learn this sport, they need to learn as an amateur. You don’t want to be learning while you are a pro. That’s when your record really counts.”

For now, boxing works for them, and all are content training at Joe Gamache’s cold, dark and damp gym in the base of the Lewiston Armory.

Ankers, 25, from Lewiston, is an intense pugilist whose fight went nearly three rounds.

“I stopped him in the third round. I knocked him out,” Ankers said matter-of-factly.

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But Ankers is patient when it comes to turning pro and dismisses the thought of returning to MMA competition.

“I dabbled in that a little bit a few years ago, it just wasn’t for me. I prefer boxing,” Ankers said. “I would like quite a few more fights. Keep fighting as often as I can, which is difficult here. I am 25 with a full-time job and trying to do it properly.”

Rolfe, 23, from Fairfield, agrees with Ankers when it comes to avoiding MMA or turning pro in the future. Rolfe saw boxing as a fresh start and a way to put his troubled past behind him.

“As soon as my coach says I am ready. It takes experience,” Rolfe said. “I thought getting in the gym would be a good way to do it. Right after high school, I was always in the gym, and I kind of lost that for awhile. Once I got back in the gym with an exercise program, I realized how much I missed it. It was like boxer-cise thing. And I want to pursue the boxing thing. So I met Joe Gamache. I found I had the heart for it.”

Golden Gloves recipient Hannah Rodrigue, 22, of Lewiston, said she was wooed into giving the sport a try.

“I got talked in to coming down, I tried it out and I liked it,” Rodrigue said. “I have a full-time job, I have bills. It’s difficult. It’s crazy. If it wasn’t for my teammates yelling down there for me, I would have had a really hard time the first time. It was a lot more strenuous than I expected.”

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Isaac Escobar is a wiry, 132-pound lightweight who quickly developed a penchant for beating older boxers.

“I fought a 29 year old and I beat him,” said Escobar, who is also an honor student at Lewiston High School. “I was even too young, but my coach put me in it and I fought a 22 year old the first week and I beat him.

“Then I fought a well known 21-year-old the next week, and I beat him. I have been boxing for two years. I just worked out and stuff. Glenn wants me to have about 60 fights.”

Isaac’s brother, Gabe, 14, and Mousseau, a petite 15-year-old, each won a Silver Mittens award.

“I started really training two months ago when I figured out where my fight was,” Gabe Escobar said.

Gabe Escobar gets a lot out of being a member of the Cugno Boxing Team, and like the rest of his team, he discovered a passion for the sport.

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“Not a lot people can do it,” Escobar said.

But Mousseau still can’t figure out what makes her put on the gloves.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I needed to find a way to stay in shape all the time,” Mousseau said. “At first, it just started as working out, and then I started going to fights. I just saw that something I was able to do it. I want to see where it takes me in my future. I do softball and cross country for Lewiston High.

“When I won Silver Mittens, especially by TKO, It really changed everything I thought about it. I surprised myself. I thought I didn’t have it in me, and I did.”

That could be said for the rest Cugno’s fighters.


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