By Ken Lay
Boxing has always been a family affair for Kevin Franklin and his wife Angel. The couple has two daughters, Kevina and Joy, who are also involved in Georgia’s Golden Gloves amateur boxing program.
Kevin and Kevina were both referees in the recent Southern Golden Gloves Regional Open Division Championships at the Ace Miller Golden Gloves Arena on Saturday, April 9.
“You have your nuclear family. You have your work family and then you have your church family,” Kevin said after he officiated the super heavyweight championship match between South Carolina’s Troy Epps and Alabama’s Eric Phillips. “Then you have your boxing family.”
“In Georgia, we truly are a boxing family. We beat up on each other to get here but when we leave Georgia, we win. We’re all one big family in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. That’s our region and that’s our boxing family
Golden Gloves boxing is a labor of love for anyone involved in the sport and that’s no different for the Franklin Family, All of its members are certified as referees, judges and ringside officials.
The family spends the majority of its weekends on the road but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’re on the road most weekends out of the year,” said Kevina, who recently celebrated her 34th birthday. “This is all volunteer work for us. We love boxing. My parents were already involved in the sport and I wanted to become involved.”
Kevina, who served as referee in the 123-pound bout between Georgia’s Mikhail Montgomery and North Carolina’s Semaj Young, had such a passion for boxing that she began referee training when she was 16, two years before she was actually old enough to officiate.
“You can’t ref until you’re 18,” she said. “But I started training to be an official when I was 16.”
Boxing has long had a questionable reputation because of its objective and its use of hand-to-hand combat.
But Kevina doesn’t view the sport as many do.
“When I think of boxing, I think about playing chess,” she said. “You have different moves.”
As a Golden Gloves official, roles vary. On any given night, an official may work at the glove table. The next night, the same official may work as a referee or a judge.
“We’re all trained to rotate and do everything,” Kevina said. “I may be at the glove table. I could be a referee or I may be a judge. My mom, my dad and my sister are all involved in the sport.
“We’re all sports fans. I was born in Connecticut and my dad coached little league football in Georgia. So I love the New England Patriots. I also like the Green Bay Packers because my dad coached a team called the Packers.”
When Kevina began officiating nearly two decades ago, she was one of a few female officials. There are now many.
Sports fans always question referees as a rite of passage. But where bad calls in baseball may cost a team a game, a bad call in boxing could have bigger consequences because of the nature of the fight game.
“In amateur boxing, our primary concern is the safety of the athletes first,” Kevina said. “It’s a very challenging and rewarding job.
“Our job is to facilitate the action and keep the fighters safe.”
Away from the ring, Kevina is an entrepreneur. She and her mother enjoy crochet and they are involved in sales.
Kevina said that the passion for boxing was nurtured by her parents.
“My parents were always involved in boxing but they gave us the freedom to make our own decisions and become involved,” she said.
Kevin noted that he’s pleased to share boxing with his family.
“My wife and my daughters work with me and boxing gives us the chance to come together as a family,” he said. “It also gives athletes the chance to come together as a community.”