WAIL! The CyberBoxingZone Journal
October 2000 issue


Oldest Amateur Boxer Fights Age Discrimination

By Adam Pollack (apollack11@hotmail.com)

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."  Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games.

Doug Fenske was born on December 16, 1948.  He began boxing at the Michigan Golden Gloves at sixteen years of age.  He won the Western Michigan Golden Gloves in 1968 at 156 pounds and was named the boxer who most exemplifies the spirit and desire of the Golden Gloves, also known as the Golden Glove Award.  Dougís entire boxing career exemplifies the spirit and desire not only of the Golden Gloves, but of now dying amateurism.  The amateur ideal which was long revered in the Olympics was a pure love of sport and competition without economic compensation.  Doug has always loved his sport and has never desired to make it a job.

After boxing for over ten years, Doug took a boxing hiatus to pursue a landfill and recycling business and a degree in civil engineering.  His Fenske Enterprises, Inc. eventually employed over 70 people.  However, the passion to compete always lingered within Doug. 

At the age of 39, Doug wanted to box again.  He began training with Morey Bowman, who had trained Dougís father Howard Fenske, who had fought Lou Nova.  Bowman informed Doug that the Michigan Golden Gloves refused to allow anyone over the age of 38 to box in an amateur bout.  Doug took his fight to the Michigan courts, and received a temporary restraining order preventing discrimination against him upon the basis of his age.  Doug went on to win the Western Michigan Golden Gloves in 1989 at 178 pounds and again won the spirit and desire of the Golden Gloves award, 21 years and 22 pounds after he won it the first time.  He was the only man to win the Western Michigan Golden Glove Award twice.

After moving to California, Doug again returned to court in 1991 and received a preliminary injunction against the United States Amateur Boxing Federation of America (USA/ABF).  The USA/ABF did not present any opposition papers and his request was granted.  It was prevented from discriminating against Doug or treating him differently based on his age or forcing him to compete in a division for people of a certain age.  From 1991 to 1998, Doug continued to box, winning the Los Angeles and Southern California Golden Gloves, as well as being the state runner up at both 178 and 201 pounds. 

Subsequently, in the year 2000, the California Golden Gloves again refused to register Doug Fenske to compete.  A masterís division for boxers over 33 years of age was created and an attempt was made to force Doug into that competition.  However, he was the only competitor.  Doug again went to court to request an injunction.  His attorney, David S. Silber, argued that the attempted age discrimination violated both federal civil rights legislation (42 U.S.C. section 1983) and the California Civil Code (Unruh Act, civil code section 51).  Once again, no opposition was filed and pursuant to the courtís order, Doug was allowed to compete without regard to his age, now 51.

To those who feel amateur boxing is only for the young, Doug is a nuisance, but to others, he is an inspiration.  He is viewed with respect and admiration by most of the boxers for his determination and dedication to the sport.  Doug always comes in shape and always gives it his best effort, win or lose.  If you want to see the oldest boxer in America, catch him next year, at age 52, at the Los Angeles Golden Gloves.


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