MERIDEN — Beat the Street fighter Aaron Gray punched his way to a New England Golden Gloves championship on Thursday night at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Mass.
The 20-year-old Gray followed up his Western New England championship by defeating Central New England champ Matt Cronin by a 3-2 split decision in the 178-pound title tilt in the Novice Division.
Gray, of Bristol, stands 5-foot-9 and was able to win despite giving up six inches to the 6-foot-3 Cronin.
“He was on top of him,” Beat the Street trainer Dennis Rivera said. “He crowded him and didn’t let him get any shots off. I felt he won every round. Aaron is persistent. He finds a way.”
Gray (5-1) knocked down Cronin in the third and final round. The Beat the Street fighter said that sealed the win.
“I watched two of his fights in preparation for my fight with him,” Gray said. “He had knockouts in both fights I saw. I knew he had power and I found that out when I got into the ring. I never fought anyone that size before, but I had the killer mindset to beat him.”
Gray said he got great advice in his corner from Rivera and fellow boxer Anthony Fuentes to crowd Cronin.
“He had a long reach; if I was on the outside he would have his way with me,” Gray said. “I wanted to stay in front of him and jab.
“My coach said I had won the fight clearly,” Gray added. “I knocked him down in the third round with a right hand. I stood in front of him the whole time and I didn’t back down.”
Gray had a bye into the finals.
“I beat the man to beat,” Gray said. “It feels good and I didn’t give 100 percent. I trained at 60 percent and I didn’t eat right or run like I should have. If I can do this at 60 percent, imagine what I can do at 100 percent. I have good people in my corner (who) want me to be successful. I could go a long way in boxing.”
Before his run to the Western New England and New England Golden Glove championships, Gray hadn’t boxed in three years.
“I will be back next year to defend,” Gray said. “I want to keep climbing the ladder. There’s more to do and the competition will only get tougher.”
Gray is the first New England Golden Gloves champ produced by Beat the Street since Bryan Zayas in 2017. Darius Wesley (2015) and Christian Lao (2009) were also two of the more recent New England champions to come out of Beat the Street.
“We have good consistency as a club,” Rivera said. “We put a lot of time into this and we are competitive.”