Cecil Perkins wasn’t paying attention initially to the words from the podium last month during a banquet at the National Golden Gloves Tournament in Omaha, Neb.
But his ears perked up as the speaker began to describe a person being inducted into the National Golden Gloves Officials Hall of Fame.
“He said (the inductee) had an amateur record of 80-20,” Perkins said. “I had an amateur record of 80-20. He said (the inductee) was from Fort Smith. Well, I’m from Fort Smith.”
Perkins was the last to know what everyone with the group from Arkansas already knew. Perkins, indeed, was being inducted into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame as a referee.
“I had no earthly idea,” Perkins said. “I was just eating my meal and only partially listening until I began to figure out what was happening. I feel blessed, obviously, that a simple guy like me would be honored like that.”
Perkins, of course, is not simple at all.
He’s long been a positive influence and supporter of amateur boxing, especially with young people in Arkansas. His career as an official extends 23 years, including 20 years as a ring captain for the Silver Gloves National Tournament. His many supporters include Ray Rodgers, a past president of the Golden Gloves and a legendary figure in amateur boxing in Arkansas.
“Cecil has been down in the trenches with me for over 20 years,” Rodgers said. “I’ve long considered Cecil among the top five or 10 amateur officials in the country. He fits the bill in what an official should be. He cuts it right down the middle, no favoritism, and he’s morally and physically fit.”
Perkins, 56, grew up on the north side of Fort Smith and boxed for five years at the Lincoln Youth Center. He attended Darby Junior High and graduated from Fort Smith Northside in 1979.
“I tried wrestling but I was ‘wrasslin’ like they do on TV,” Perkins said. “I went up against a guy from the Arkansas School for the Blind, thinking I could win, and he pinned me in 45 seconds. That’s when I went to boxing full time.”
Perkins mostly fought in the bantamweight (112-118 pounds) division, where he won three Arkansas state championships and twice finished as a runner-up in the Mid-South championships that draws fighters from all over the region.
“I was good, but I never could quite get over the hump,” Perkins said.
Perkins turned to officiating and helping underprivileged kids. He officiated amateur boxing matches all over the country and was favored by boxing promoters for his fairness and compassion in the ring. Silver Gloves is for amateur fighters ages 10-15. Golden Gloves is for amateur fighters ages 16 and older.
“I always kept in mind somebody’s kids were in there and it was my job to protect them if one of them was overmatched,” Perkins said. “Whatever the outcome, I was going to send their sons or daughters home safe.”
Perkins, who still carries himself well at 170 pounds, promised his wife, Lucretia, he will retire after fulfilling his commitment to officiating two more matches in December. His last appearance will be at the Texas State Silver Gloves competition in McKinney, Texas.
“Cecil is a nice guy who’s done a lot for kids out of the goodness of his heart,” said Harold Corley, who formed the Fort Smith Boxing Club 40 years ago. “He’s a jewel and he will be missed.”
Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.