The only exposure most Canadians have had to boxing in recent months involved the suspicious death of Montreal boxer Arturo Gatti.
However, North of 60 the sport is making a comeback – getting off the canvas, if you will – especially in Whitehorse.
Boxing coach and former Golden Gloves middleweight Jess Staffen has recently returned to the Yukon having finished his studies at the University of Northern British Columbia. Staffen has taken over the coaching duties for the Yukon Amateur Boxing Association, while coach Troy Malcolm takes time off for family reasons.
“There’s been a bunch of clubs re-established in Alaska and NWT, so we’re hoping some time in the near future we’ll be able to go away to a tournament,” said Staffen. “For the newer guys it would be a Bronze Glove tournament.
“The more we get established, the more people will come.”
While it the association looks to sending boxers to competitions, the association is holding boxing classes at Peak Fitness in Riverdale twice a week at 8 p.m on Mondays and Wednesdays. Boxers of all levels are welcome.
“We welcome everyone from ages 10 to 60 – even a little older,” said Staffen.
“We’re really encouraging those who want to get better at sparring – they should be running. It’s a very cardio-oriented sport.
“We concentrate for at least an hour working on cardio and the last half hour we’ll try to get some technical work in – a lot of the basics, because just about everyone here is fairly new. So blocking, parrying; we’re really big on defence first and then offence. So you learn how do defend yourself first and then we teach you to be offensive.”
In Monday’s class, in which 10 students participated, there were both new and experienced boxers training. It was Janelle Robertson’s first time back at the class after being absent from the sport for five years. Robertson, 18, who is in town for a short time, represented the Yukon in the ring while in Grade 8, finishing third in a competition, but withdrew from the sport after breaking her femur while snowboarding.
“I started the following year in Grade 9 because I missed it, but there were a lot of complications in my life so it just ended up not working out,” said Robertson.
“It’s great exercise and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone is really nice. I definitely love it.”
Whitehorse’s Teagan Duncan, 13, has been coming to classes for about a month, heard about the classes through word of mouth and already hopes to compete sometime soon at a tournament.
“I like the sparring,” said Duncan, who like the rest, wears head gear, a mouth guard and boxing gloves.
While studying in Prince George, Staffen coached at one of three local boxing clubs, taking athletes to tournaments in BC and Alberta, including the BC Games.
“One of the kids in our club is now on the national team,” said Staffen.
He has been boxing competitively since the age of nine, coaching since 16 and has competed at a golden gloves level and in the Canada Winter Games in 1994, losing his first match to the boxer who went on to gold.
In March, Staffen won silver at the Alberta Golden Gloves for his weight class.
“That’ll probably be the last bout I’ll have,” said Staffen. “It’s very difficult to find time to train and keep weight. When you fight at that level, you really have to be prepared.”
It costs $30 for a month of classes and is restricted to Peak Fitness club members.
“Peak Fitness has been great with us,” said Staffen. “They have been more than accommodating with us, allowing us this space to train. We’re going to hammer out some details to maybe hang some heavy bags or set up a ring somewhere.”
Although there are no heavy bags, there are plenty of gloves and, of course, skipping ropes.
“When everyone is skipping they’re staying on their toes – it’s kind of like a boxing stance because you’re on your toes, bouncing from foot to foot, always on balance,” said Staffen. “So the cardio training all relates to how you perform in the sparing.
“Rhythm is really big in boxing,” he added. “We always listen to music when we work out. People with rhythm make great boxers.”
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