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Special Tribute Planned This Weekend: Gateway Boxing Legend Remains A ‘Knock-Out’

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By Tracy Allen
CALL Staff Writer

In his heyday, he was known as “Mr. Boxer”, the little black man who saved many souls from going awry in the street. Even in the days of segregation, when a black man’s worth was reduced lower than a penny, Arrington “Bubble” Klice didn’t let the times nor his small stature keep him from helping youth during the days of racial hatred. Of course, if you were ever in Bubble’s presence, that meant that you also had to mind him or else, find yourself out of his gym. In Bubble’s case, the Gateway Boxing Club. It was a place that black kids and others less fortunate found as a safe haven.
If you weren’t lucky enough to hit a ball, run a base, or play in the Negro Baseball Leagues, you had few choices as a black kid growing up in segregated times. But, there was hope and at Bubble’s gym, the Gateway Boxing Club, just off 24th and Tracy, and inside his office at the Paseo YMCA, kids found hope.
And a short guy named Bubble, all 5-foot-2 inches, created dreams that so many boys can never forget.
Bubble died November 18, 2006, of Alzheimer’s at the age of 98. But his legacy remains. Not only is a community center named after him, but a park bench dedicated by the Enshriners sits around the Freedom Fountain off Cleaver Blvd. These are constant reminders of what this dimunitive African American mentor meant to so many Kansas Citians.

Tribute For Legend
This week-end, a host of Bubble’s former boxers and fans along with celebrities will gather to pay tribute to the man who once traveled with legendary black boxer Jack Johnson and, who has been considered one of the greatest boxing mentors that crossed the globe especially during his historic moments with then Golden Gloves. But it will be more than just paying tribute to Klice. Participants will also get a chance to help urban boxers revisit the joys of the sport. Community members and sponsors George Gates, Elbert Anderson and Mark Bowen, with the help of the Enshriners, have planned activities to  raise funds to buy boxing equipment for the Gregg Klice Community center.

Today, Friday, May 16, a special presentation will be held at the Gregg Klice Community center, 1600 John “Buck” O’Neil Way,  honoring the former boxing legend. A dedication will be held at  6 p.m., and a bust will be revealed in the likeness of Kansas City’s once long-time favorite mentor.

Other activities are planned for the week-end in honor of Klice including a reception at 6:30 p.m., at the American Jazz Museum atrium, a benefit concert featuring, “Darcus & Friends”, with Ali Woodson, comedian Reynaldo Rey, Jean Carne and Norman Connors, will be held at the Gem Theater, beginning at 8 p.m. Admission is $40 and tickets are available at American Jazz museum. Both events are slated for Friday.
On Saturday, a free health screening will be held by the Swope Health Services, starting at 10 a.m.
A community festival, costing $10 will include local entrepreneurs, businesses, and other government agencies promoting health and wellness, will be held starting at 11 a.m., at the Satchel Paige Stadium, 51st and Swope Parkway.

Later that day, an Outdoor Music festival showcasing local and national talent and celebrity performers ZAPP and Bloodstone, will be held at the Paige stadium, starting at 1 p.m. A Boxing show at Paige stadium, will featuring amateur boxers and will also include guest like boxers Larry Hazzard and Golden Glove legend and pro great, Michael Spinks, and boxing official legend Richard Steele.

A Legendary Career

Klice is well-known for developing some of the best amateur boxers in the world. During his time as a coach, from 1936 to 1978, Bubble was owner and coach of the Gateway Boxing Club. T.B. Watkins assisted him financially with the start of Gateway, originally located at 18th and Tracy, before moving to the 22nd Terrace  and Vine, inside the old Water department building known as the NYA. From there, it moved to 24th and Tracy.

Gateway Boxing Club was one of the top boxing organizations in the world  at one point. Gateway produced 130 regional champions and 11 national champions. In 1982, he received the Hall of Fame award for his service ein the Golden Gloves Association of America. Klice did coach both amateur and professional boxers. However, after one of his boxers, Jackie Darthard, suffered a brain embolism in the ring and died in 1951, Klice returned to coaching only amateur boxers. He got involved with the Golden Gloves and started the Gateway club, and soon became a legend many cherish. He even stayed involved with the Golden Glove until 2001, when he no longer, according to his daughter, Angela Klice, could remember how to get to the Coaches Council meetings, that were once held at the Paseo Y.

James “Jimmy” Harrison, a former U.S. Golden Glove champion who fought a short time overseas, hooked up with Klice in 1949, at age 14. Harrison said that while Bubble was a disciplinarian, he made sure that the boxers he coached understood his concern for their wellbeing.
“He had some of the toughest boxers around,” Harrison told THE CALL in a 2006 interview. “The thing that was good about Bubble was his personality. He had the personality-type that you liked to be around. He took interest in the fighter. I can remember, he had 40, 50 fighters and they all respected Bubble 100 percent.”
Bubble was the man. He traveled with legendary black boxer, Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, whe he was a young man. He trained fighters in America. He even trained one in Italy. Bubble recognized talent. He knew that his kids, Gateway boxers, couldn’t be beat.
Neither would Bubble give up on “his boys”.
Gateway Boxing Club was known in the day as the place to be if you wanted to school the best. Ask any boxer that grew up in Kansas City. Gateway had the champions. The ones that few forget. As many said, they took their whipppins’ in the gym.
Joe Fiorino came to Bubble from the Whatsoever Boxing Council.
“Bubble probably had more champions than any trainer around,” said Fiorino. “He put all of his heart into it. Took a lot of kids off the street. Got them out of jail and straighten them out.”
While Fiorino fought for Whatsoever, he says, not too many trainers back in the day were as good as Bubble.
“Oh, we had some good trainers but not like Bubble. When you fought a Gateway fighter, it was a war.”
According to Ollie Gates, “everyone took to self-defense and Bubble Klice was “the” man,” Gates said.
Gates boxed for a short time when he was 10 years old before he got to Lincoln High school and started playing sports there.
Gates says Bubble was a mentor for most black boys back in segregation.
“We didn’t have too many things to look at that time in the world with things being segregated. But, Bubble was one of them. Bubble was a correct people person. He wasn’t a run-of-the-mill people person,” said Gates. “He was a person that said you’re going to do things the right way, the correct way.”
“Bubble Klice gave us a good base for being a good sportsman,” said Gates. “Bubble knew all the basic rules of life, what it took you to maintain and be respected.”
Gates says even as a young boy, Bubble made sure every boy felt like a champion. “I can remember him saying when I got to the gym, “come on in, boy, you can do it. That is what he said to all of us.”
Robert “Frenchie” Chauvin started with Bubble in 1952 at the tender age of 12 and just 88 pounds. Said Chauvin, “When you fought, you were ready.”
Chauvin boxed such greats as Art Hernandez Jr., the junior middleweight champion of the world. He was also in the gym with welterweight champion Curtis Cokes.
“Bubble was in my corner, that’s why I won. He had more confidence in me than I had. With him in my corner, I couldn’t lose,” said Chauvin.
Chauvin said that Klice always told his boxers, “A tired boy was a good boy.”
Man Of The People
Angela Klice remembers her daddy as more than just a coach who kept mischievous boys out of trouble. She says the man everyone knew as Bubble also understood that he had a family and kept his family life and his boxing life separate.
But, she says that she didn’t mind sharing her father with the rest of Kansas City.
“It is always quite amazing to me, that the celebration of his contribution still goes on,” says Ms. Klice. “I  never expected this.”
“It makes a graceful job because I know what he did and people like him don’t come around like that. . . ”
“He was a man of the people. He loved people.”
According to Ms. Klice, her father spent his life loving his family and helping young boys and men find alternatives other than the streets. From the time he started coaching boxers around 1938, Bubble always stayed near a gym. He also made sure that the boys and men he mentored did as he told. And, what happened to those that didn’t? Well, some got put out of Gateway, and some, well, Bubble had to bail them out of jail.
Bubble was known to get up in the wee hours of the morning, his daughter said, and go down to the Jackson County Detention center to get kids out of jail. He made sure that “his boys” had some ally to help them in their time of need. Ms. Klice says her father didn’t care what the background was as long as the young men he mentored understood what bigger roles in life they could have.
“He enjoyed people,” Ms. Klice  said. “He loved people. He made people comfortable around him. He always had a little saying, a little nickname for somebody around him. Anybody who was around him, he made them feel like they were the most important person around.”
Like most youth who grow up with a parent that coaches, Ms. Klice says her dad never forgot his role as a father.
“I know that he was gone all the time but my mother (Myrtle) was the rock that kept everything going,” said Ms. Klice. “She allowed him to do whatever he needed to do. She stayed strong.”
Ms. Klice saw Bubble get up at nights to bail boxers out of jail. She saw her father take boxers to their first jobs if they didn’t have a ride. If they got in trouble and couldn’t get a job, he went to his friends and asked them to hire some of the boxers. And, he guaranteed those employers that “his boxers would be there.”
“He kept the home as his home and he never let anything interfere with that. He did everything.”
Ms. Klice says her father was good at being blunt, but also, caring enough to help her handle life situations.
“I can remember him saying sometimes when things got rough, ‘girl, put your big girl panties on and deal with it. Take your big girl pill and go ahead, stop whining.”
“My mother and I, he always kept us first,” Ms. Klice stated. “As long as I can remember, he never broke a promise to me. And to me, that is something to say about a daddy. If he said, he did it.”
“Whatever he got into, he put his whole self into it. He never half-stepped anything. He said, ‘my word is my bond’. And, he lived by that. That was the man,” she said.
Even though Bubble was just 5-2, Ms. Klice said you wouldn’t have known it by the voice.
“Papa didn’t take no mess,” Ms. Klice said. “You had to do what you were supposed to do. He ran a tight ship.”
“He was never condescending, he just said what he felt,” she said.
Those boxers that didn’t do the right thing, Bubble had a plan. Once he helped them get out of jail and on their feet, he made sure they came by to the Paseo YMCA and the Boxing Council office to get themselves better trained and prepared beyond the ring. There were plenty coaches back then who spent time helping other young men do the right thing at the Paseo Y. Guys like Jack Bush, the legendary Central High school coach, was just one of many coaches that joined with Klice to help deter wrong behavior by young black males.
“They knew if they broke the rules, they couldn’t come in, they couldn’t box,” said Ms. Klice. “And if they missed training, they couldn’t box either. He was pretty strict.”
Said Ms. Klice, “Daddy had a very commanding voice. One you would listen to. . . There was only one Bubble. He gave everything he could in that little package. He was just an unbelievable man. . . When he spoke, everybody listened. It was an E.F. Hutton thing.”
“He was something else,” Ms. Klice said.
Ms. Klice says she’ll always cherish her father’s legacy and will never forget what people tell her everyday they cross her path. “People always tell me, ‘thank you for sharing your father with the community’,” says Ms. Klice. “I didn’t know what that meant. I never suffered anything. He was never too busy to be a father. I didn’t know I was sharing him.”

Written by Symphony

May 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Athletics, Honors

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Trying to find Angie Klice… I was a close friend of hers before I left KC in 1977 and we lost touch…. If NYONE KNOWS HER, YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO FORWARD MY EMIL TO HER…. THANK YOU JEAN ANNE SHANKLE, 203 LANCER LANE, POTEAU, OK 74953 PHONE 918-647-5902

    Jean Anne Shankle

    November 18, 2009 at 6:04 am

  2. My father Robert H Burton used to box for Bubble Klice and won Golden Gloves. I would like to catch up with his daughter to ask a couple of questions. 816-582-7169


    April 17, 2020 at 2:20 pm

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