Utah’s ‘Fighting Fullmers’ honored by two cities
Aug 19, 2019 03:32PM
● By Jennifer J Johnson
Boxing greats The Fullmer Brothers now have not just a South Jordan-based gym in their name, but a stretch of road along West Jordan’s and South’s Jordan’s 9400 in their honor (Golden Gloves)
By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]
“My philosophy was to move forward and swing,” the late Gene Fullmer told Sports Illustrated in 1997.
The “move forward” part — along with stops and turns — will live on in the lives of thousands of South Jordan and West Jordan residents traveling along 9400 South from 1700 to 2200 West — what will now be known as “Fullmer Lane” in honor of Gene and his brothers Jay and Don.
Two cities mutually honor West Jordan boxing greats
The cities of South Jordan and West Jordan have elected to rename the road for the trio of West Jordan’s “boxing brothers.”
The naming echoes Salt Lake County’s honoring another boxing legend and boxing mentor to the Fullmers.
Boxing great Marv Jenson (June 4, 1917–March 14, 2007) was honored by Salt Lake County officials with its naming of the South Jordan-based Marv Jenson Center. (Salt Lake County leaders have announced closure of this facility, slated for next March 31.)
A Deseret News article from 2015 quotes Jay Fullmer’s son, Chet Fullmer, as crediting Marv Jenson with having allowed the Fullmers to train for free at his gym. Chet Fullmer also credited Jenson for the work ethic which the Fullmers dutifully, joyously followed in their efforts in both West Jordan and South Jordan.
According to the Washington Post, Each of the three Fullmer brothers—Gene, Jay and Don—became mid-century boxing legends, learning the sport and art of boxing in an outdoor boxing ring their father, a rancher who had himself been an amateur boxer, built at their family home in West Jordan. These skills were then honed through their long-time association with Utah boxing great Jenson.
Lawrence “Gene” Fullmer (July 21, 1931–April 27, 2015) became the world middleweight boxing champion in 1957 when he defeated Sugar Ray Robinson, universally viewed as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1999, the Salt Lake Tribune declared him Utah’s greatest athlete.
Middle brother Jay Fullmer (June 19, 1934–April 5, 2013) was a professional boxer in both lightweight and welterweight divisions. An eye injury with the potential of blinding him ended his career early.
The baby of the bunch, Don Fullmer (Feb. 21, 1939–Jan. 28, 2012), also a middleweight like eldest Don, competed for the world title and was a boxing mainstay of the 1960s. While an amateur for four years, prior to turning pro, Don did not lose a fight in 65 bouts.
The gift of boxing for ‘Heroes in disguise’
Having each been blessed with success, the Fullmers shared their love of boxing and honored the wishes of Jenson by establishing the free-of-charge Fullmer Brothers Boxing Gym in West Jordan in their later years.
West Jordan officials allowed the nonprofit boxing club to use an abandoned firehouse for free for five years but then approached Salt Lake County leaders to relocate the building. Salt Lake County officials provided space at its South Jordan-based Equestrian Center in 2011.
In its obituary honoring the passing of eldest brother, Gene Fullmer, Fox 13 called the brothers “heroes in disguise.”
“West Jordan and South Jordan kind of came alive, I think, as result of them boxing,” said Brad Fullmer, Don Fullmer’s son.
“The Fullmers were a big part of West Jordan,” agreed West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding, speaking of the brothers’ charitable contribution in terms of facilities and time spent with the city’s youth.
All three brothers, for a time, resided on the same street in what Fox 13 called a “nearly side-by-side” location.
Their contribution, like the road now named for them, extended beyond West Jordan to South Jordan.
The gift that keeps on giving
“They left a great legacy and their family continues to leave that legacy today. It’s an honor to be a part of South Jordan with people like this,” said Don Rees, member of the South Jordan’s Historic Preservation Committee.
Part of the legacy Rees is referring to is the tradition of working with youth at the South Jordan-based Fullmer Brothers Boxing Gym.
More than 2,000 youth have used the gym, many of whom are considered “at-risk.” Rees said the youth not only learn the sport but receive valuable mentorship.
“There are many youth that struggle today, both with social media and social activities,” Rees said. “These youth learn something that can help them not only just as fighters, but it can also help them become better citizens.”
The Fullmer family has recently acquired land they plan use to build a new gym to continue to serve the youth, at which they’ll be able to hold tournaments. Through the Fullmer Legacy Foundation, the family will soon begin fundraising to get the funds to build the new gym.
“It was Dad’s and those guy’s dying wish that we don’t charge anybody to ever come into that gym, so they wanted us to keep it running and don’t charge them,” said Brad Fullmer.
In the new gym, which they hope to get built within two years, there will be a study hall and a computer lab where kids can do their homework.