The first recorded boxing match in Grande Prairie was back in 1914, and it’s hoped a new era for the sport will kick off this weekend. Boxing Alberta has picked the Swan City for its provincial championships, hosted at the Eastlink Centre by Champion Gym.
Owner Raphael Bergmann expects to see 150 athletes as young as 8 years old.
“For instance we have Brenna Peters. She’s our smallest and one of our youngest athletes; she’s nine years old and she’ll be competing in a sort of a fun box. We do have a masters division; we’re waiting for an opponent for [a local fighter], and he’s 54 years old, so it just shows you the scope and range.”
This is the first time since the 1995 Canada Winter Games that a sanctioned event will be held in Grande Prairie. Bergmann hopes it will raise the profile of boxing in the region.
“Boxing is huge in this town. We can call out the spectre of Willie de Wit when he was here and that was such an awesome era. We are looking to reinvigorate that in this city. Boxing has such a rich history in Grande Prairie.”
De Wit won an Olympic silver medal in 1984 after a gold at the Commonwealth Games in 1982. He’ll likely an inspiration for many of the 20 local boxers taking part.
Almost all of the athletes headed to the Swan City will be aiming to earn a spot at nationals in Quebec. Many will end up competing at a national or international, and Champion Gym has a goal of sending two people to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Medals aside, Bergmann argues there are other great benefits to getting involved.
“It really promotes individual leadership but within a team environment; it’s unique that way. There’s also that element of toughness that you can grow inside an individual that helps them to do the right thing with some courage behind it.”
The event is open to the public with weekend passes available for $40. Day passes for Saturday’s round robin are $20 and Sunday’s finals are $30. There will be a licensed area for adults and children under 5 are free. Families are encouraged to come out and cheer on the home team.