The sign was placed along Lakeside Street at its northern intersection with Magnolia Avenue. It sits outside of the gym he trained at, the “Ace” Miller Golden Gloves Arena.
Tate held the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship from 1979-1980, after defeating Gerrie Coetzee in South Africa.
Tate’s legacy is now living on through the street sign, but also with the boxers that train at Golden Gloves Arena today. Trinity Prospers has been boxing since she was 12 years old, now at age 21 she hopes to follow in Tate’s footsteps.
“I’ve heard a lot of things, great things about ‘Big’ John Tate, and it’s really inspirational that somebody out of this same gym has done the things that he’s done. It shines a light on this gym and lets people in here know that they can do the same, and go as far as they want to go,” Prospers said.
Right now, Prospers has her eyes set on representing the U.S. in the ring.
“I recently qualified for the Olympic trials, so that’ll be held in December in Lafayette, Louisiana,” Prospers said. “The winner out of the trials gets to go to the Olympics, so my main goal right now is getting through the trials and getting to be a part of the Olympic team.”
When John Tate’s trainer, Ace Miller, died in 2013, his daughter, Tracey Miller-Davis, took over the Golden Gloves boxing program.
“There’s a lot of things that we try to instill in the kids about, you have a chance in here just like anybody else does, it doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from, rich, poor, Black or white, it doesn’t matter, you are a part of this gym and you have every opportunity to compete, and grow and learn through this program,” Miller-Davis said.
She said Tate became part of the family after coming to train under her father, and his championship win in Apartheid, South Africa was an example for young boxers today in more ways than one.
“John refused to fight unless the Black people got to come to the fight along with the white people. They’re over in South Africa for eight months training, and we weren’t sure if the fight was going to go off or not, and John just insisted. So for that movement alone, it was just as important to us that he won the title,” Miller-Davis said.
These values have been instilled in Prospers during her time at the gym.
“They talk about how hard he works and everything that he’s done and his story alone, it’s motivational because he wasn’t born into any of it but he worked hard for it so he got what he worked hard for, and it’s just motivation,” Prospers said.
Local documentarian William Winnett brought attention to Tate’s story with his film, “Knoxville’s Forgotten Champion: The Story of Big John Tate.” The Beck Cultural Exchange Center is holding a screening of the film on Friday, June 9 at 5:30 p.m.
The Golden Gloves Arena is free and open to all, and holds training sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m.