Born in Belmont, N.C. Bobby “Runt” Cloninger began boxing in 1959 under the tutelage of Lou Kemp at the Charlotte police Athletic Club. He later switched to the Mount Holly Boxing Team where he fought for legendary coach T.L. McManus. Cloninger compiled an amateur record of 36-6, not counting his bouts in the U.S. Navy, where he served four years. He won championships in Gastonia, Newton, Mount Holly, Lincolnton, and Charlotte. Cloninger won the open featherweight championship at the Carolinas Golden Gloves in 1960 and represented the Carolinas at New York’s Sunnyside Garden that year.
He was employed most of his career in the steel business. Cloninger and his wife Carolyn are residents of Belmont.