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Apr 2002 / church and state :: email this story to a friend

A Politician with Punch
By Thomas Crone

The Democratic Alderman of the City's 25th Ward since November of 1999 — and a policeman for more than 30 years — Dan Kirner was recently tabbed for inclusion in the Gateway Classic Foundation's local Boxing Hall of Fame, giving a nod to his long work as an emcee and judge in the amateur ranks.

We caught up with Kirner at the Board one afternoon, peppering him with some soft jabs and light hooks.

TCS: How did you get involved in the game?
Kirner: I started announcing and then I took up judging.

TCS: Was it tough to make the switch?
Kirner: No, no. It's just another way of helping. We're all volunteers. I do have a pro license, too. My interest is the kids.

TCS: Through the years you've seen some kids come through the ranks who are now pros. Do any of them particularly stand out?
Kirner: Cory SpinksWe've got a couple of champions right now, or guys fighting for championships. Cory Spinks would be the number one. Then, Chantell Stanciel, who just lost a title fight and got hurt a little bit in that one. Lamar Alexander is about 9-0. He comes from a family of around 11, and two of the others are boxers. Devin Alexander's a Silver Gloves champion. They all come out of Marquette Gymnasium, the old Hyde Park Gym.

TCS: What's the health of the amateur community right now?
Kirner: It's starting back up with the lower group, the novices. They're continuing to improve. As you know, Myrl Taylor was president of the local scene in the 1980s, and we were winning championships all over. He stepped aside for four years and we went from the top to the bottom. He's been back for about four years and it's coming around. The kids 14 to 15 are ready to go into the open divisions in a couple years and they'll really do some good in the national tournaments again. We did win a national tournament in September, as they allowed the youngster to get some work and these novices really carried it for us.

TCS: How about the pro scene?
Kirner: I think in the last five years, the pro boxing scene in St. Louis has really picked up. I did a show as part of a television deal from the Adam's Mark in December and it was very well attended. You've got Jim Howell doing shows in St. Charles and Kevin Cunningham in the city.

TCS: Do many people who know you through your political work know about this side to your personality?
Kirner: Most of my friends know. I don't suppose everyone at work does, but they probably do after the Journals ran a story about me.

TCS: In both politics and boxing, you're dealing with some real characters.
Kirner: Well, we're dealing with these inner-city youths. The primary purpose of amateur boxing is to keep kids out of trouble. It should keep them on the straight-and-narrow and helps them learn respect. It might even give them an opportunity to get out of town for the first time in their lives. For some, that could be the first time they actually get to sleep on beds with sheets. These kids are poor. And anything we can do to set them right pays off. It cuts down on crime.

TCS: There seems to be a long connection between police officers and the sport.
Kirner: Since Myrl and Jerry Clinton started the Guns and Hoses shows, it's become a big attraction. The police and fire departments get together to raise money for The Backstoppers with those. Last year, we had over 17,000 people and made over $262,000 for New York's fire and police departments.

TCS: You've got Sam Hill fighting still.
Kirner: Sam Hill's a professional. They call him the Fighting Policeman. He's on most of (Cunningham's) shows.

TCS: How many nights a month to you devote to this?
Kirner: Pro, I do about four-five shows a year. We work on a rotating basis, under the state's control. Amateurs, I do about 45 shows a year. I visit the gyms periodically, to see how the kids are doing. I got my wife involved six years ago. She's a judge, too. She does it for the reason I do. And that's not because there's money in it.

TCS: What does the Hall recognition mean to you?
Kirner: That means a great deal to me. The Gateway Classic Sports Foundation is building a new building on Martin Luther King, which will be a major sports complex for the North Side. Part of that will be devoted to the Boxing Hall. It's an honor to be given that by the Gateway.

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