(JUNE 14) Gloria Borden’s
love for boxing began before she even started attending New
Glasgow’s Temperance Street School in the 1940s.
Among her first childhood recollections were the nights at home
on Vale Road when her parents and any number of her 17 brothers
and sisters gathered around the radio and listened to
“Back then,” she recalls, “our
parents didn’t have much money, so we listened to sports on the
radio. When we listened to the fights, we all nestled down in
front of our radio and listened to the Joe Louis fights and all
||Flash from the Past of female
boxing promoter in Canada
“So it became a very, very big part in our lives as children
just to listen to it. I was about five years old when I first
Was she really interested at that young age?
“Oh my goodness, yes.”
She says her mother was pregnant with her in June 1938 when the
family listened to Louis defending his world heavyweight
championship against Max Schmeling.
“My mother was just as interested in boxing as my father was
because she and Joe Louis were born on the same day.
|“Back then, the blacks had very few notable names to get excited
about in sports. So when Joe Louis came around, it was a big
thing. So there was a great, great interest in Joe Louis.”
Gloria remembers those nights by the radio.
“The first Louis fight I can remember was when he fought Billy
Conn (in 1946). I can remember listening to Louis against
(Jersey Joe) Walcott and (Ezzard) Charles.
"There were also the Sugar Ray Robinson fights. Whatever fights
were on the radio we listened. I would never miss a boxing
The first fight she attended in New Glasgow was when her uncle,
Russell Paris, took her to a local card.
“My uncle used to work the corners and he took me.”
Later, when she attended fights herself, Gary Simon was a
headliner. There were also the Parises – Sparky, Percy and
Not long after finishing school at New Glasgow High – where she
participated in track and soccer – she moved to Halifax to find
work. When you’re one of 18 siblings, you don’t sit around home
“It was almost a demand to get out there and work. It was in
1958 that I came to Halifax.”
Boxing was still very much on her mind.
“I bought every boxing magazine on the store shelves. I still
have them all.
My interest in boxing was always huge with me. I never knew in
what capacity I would get involved, but I wanted to be involved.
“I knew that before I could put anything into boxing, I had to
get myself a job. When I got out of school, I just couldn’t leap
right into it.”
Gloria found work at Victoria General Hospital as an assistant
lab technologist, a position she held while raising two sons.
“From day one, my goal was to write my exams and be registered
as a laboratory technologist in haematology, which I achieved in
Work didn’t prevent her from chasing her other goal.
“For a while, I had been sidetracked, but my ambition continued
to be to form a boxing club and prepare young fellows for the
She talked with then mayor, Ron Wallace, a former professional
boxer himself, to discuss the possibility of getting gym space
where young men could train for Montreal.
“The mayor and the others loved the idea, but they wondered
whether I could do it or not.
"We got space in the old industrial building. That’s when I
formed the Halifax Recreational Amateur Boxing Club.”
In 1972, in what has always been a tough sport, Borden became
the only female boxing promoter and manager in North America.
She was Ricky Anderson’s first manager in the early 1970s, at a
time when amateur and pro boxing could not be intertwined.
“I was registered as an amateur manager and also got my
professional boxing licence. The boxing commission allowed me to
be part of a pro card as long as I would put any profit into the
amateur boxing program.
“That was my agreement and as a result I became the first ever
to promote a professional boxing card when involved 100 per cent
with amateur boxing.”
Pictou County’s Art Hafey, who became world ranked, trained at
Borden’s gym for one of his major fights.
“There was an article written in Ring Magazine referring to that
when they interviewed Art. That made me very proud. I remember
reading that he referred to me as ‘a mother hen watching over
her chicks.’ That made me chuckle.”
Former world champion Archie Moore moved to Halifax and for
several years worked with Borden in training youngsters.
What she was doing wasn’t always easy. Being a woman, and being
black, meant there were some dissenters.
But she wasn’t going to be defeated.
“There were some people who wanted what I had, what I was doing,
but they weren’t going to get it, not as long as I ran the club
the way the city wanted me to. I was safe.
“It was hurtful, some of the things that happened, but it was
just another hurdle. It was like stepping on a stumbling block
and I knew I had to get up and keep on going. I wasn’t going to
let it get me down. I couldn’t. I was on a mission, and the
mission was ’76.”
Five boxers who trained at her club qualified for Montreal – a
fitting tribute to her dedicated effort.
After the Olympics, Gloria decided it was time to step down.
“I achieved what I started out to do, and I didn’t feel I wanted
to carry on with the pressure that the (position) demands. I
felt it was time to step out of the picture, and I did.”
There were good things, also bad things, in those years in
“I look back at the good things, because that’s what keeps me
positive. I acknowledge the bad things and try to correct them.”
All this time later, there’s something that should be added to
this now-71-year-old’s story: recognition in her hometown by the
Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, and in her province
by the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
She belongs in both places.
Hugh Townsend, a New Glasgow native and a long-time sports
journalist in Nova Scotia, can be reached by e-mail at