Noticeably absent from the 83rd annual Gloves tournament was another Dublin native, three-time women’s 106-pound champion “Ruthless” Ruth O’Sullivan, who withdrew before the preliminaries because of injury.
Hardwick, who at 25 was seven years older than Newman, went one better than past finalists Alo Kelly, a five-time All-Irish champion from Westmeath, and Limerick transplant Don O’Regan. Both light heavyweights, Kelly and O’Regan finished second in 1998 and 2005, respectively.
A bricklayer representing Yonkers YMCA, Hardwick applied incessant pressure on his lanky southpaw foe to earn the nod after three rounds. Newman had John Duddy trainer Harry Keitt were in his corner.
There were few clean and consistent connects, but Hardwick easily outworked his man. The most competitive round was the last in which the two fighters exchanged shots wildly.
“It was very hard,” the victor said. “He’s fit and he’s got the long reach as well. I was trying to counter his jab.”
On how it felt defeating a man coached by Duddy’s trainer, Harwick, now 5-0, said: “I thought he was well prepared [and] he was definitely here to fight. I take my hat off to him.”
He dedicated the victory to his friend Warren O’Connor, who was murdered in Dublin last January.
“Warren was inspiring me in the first, second and third rounds. He’s inspired me the last eights weeks. I dedicate all this to him,” he said.
Asked if he’ll enter the Gloves again next year, Hardwick, in the United States for the past year, gave an emphatic response: “Definitely! Definitely!”
Trainer Richie Sampogna, one of three coaches that work with Hardwick in Yonkers, spoke glowingly of his charge. “Tom is a workhorse; it’s a pleasure to work with him. He loves to train and a coach can’t ask for anything more. He gives 110 percent everyday and it shows in [fights].”
Arthur Williams and Jim Howard, the latter a former amateur standout who had wins in the unpaid ranks over two of Muhammad Ali’s toughest opponents, Jimmy Young and Ken Norton, are Hardwick’s other trainers.
Touted as the world’s oldest and largest amateur boxing competition, The Daily News Golden Gloves has been the launching pad for many professionals, including world champions Emile Griffith, Jose Torres, Floyd Patterson and Riddick Bowe.