China / World

Handcrafted gloves still a hit with boxing stars

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-07-25 07:13

MEXICO CITY, Mexico City - In a boxing world often dominated by promoters, self-promoters and glitz, Alberto Reyes likes to do things the old-fashioned way: his company still makes gloves by hand, just as it did for Muhammad Ali.

The Mexican craftsman is the owner of Cleto Reyes boxing gloves, a family firm founded by his late father in the 1940s whose clients have included such legends as Ali, Manny Pacquiao and even the fictional Rocky Balboa.

Reyes likes to tell the story of the best publicity his company ever received, when it made the gloves for one of Ali's last fights: his 1978 match to reclaim his heavyweight title from Leon Spinks.

It was the kind of free advertising that is hard to imagine in this age of mega-bouts like next month's "Money Fight" between boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and mixed martial artist Conor McGregor.

"They had a contract with a different company to supply the gloves, but Ali said, 'I don't fight if it's not with Cleto gloves,'" Reyes, 65, said in his Mexico City office.

The fight promoters agreed to let Ali use his favorite gloves, on one condition, Reyes said: he had to put tape over the label.

But once inside the ring, the fighter known as "The Greatest" asked his trainer, Angelo Dundee, to take off the tape.

The photo of a sweat-drenched Ali fending off a punishing swing from Spinks - the name "Cleto Reyes" visibly stamped on his glove - was published around the world after the former champ, then aged 36, seized back the heavyweight title belt from his 25-year-old opponent.

That particular pair of gloves was made by longtime Cleto Reyes employee Ruben Albarran, today aged 64.

"It was one of the first pairs I made," he said at one of the company's two factories on the outskirts of Mexico City.

"When I saw the fight, I was so excited for the company. Then I saw the picture in the newspaper."

And the list of famous clients grew: Joe Louis, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya ... even Sylvester Stallone as "Rocky".

Cleto Reyes gloves are a source of pride in Mexico.

The factory walls are covered with pictures of presidents, celebrities and boxing legends wearing them.

Public health officials here recently unveiled a new campaign to fight breast cancer - donning bright pink pairs of Cleto Reyes gloves.

"It's a pleasure to work for a company that is internationally recognized," said Albarran, who now stitches one of the firm's other products: punching bags.

Agence France-presse

Handcrafted gloves still a hit with boxing stars

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