Perceived as a “niche” sport to the general public in the shadow of Mixed Martial Arts, amateur boxing within Canada has become resurgent again.
One gym contributing to this pugilistic renaissance is HUF Executive Fitness, a family owned staple in Port Credit, Ont., that has been around for over a decade.
Co-owned by Olga Rosa Heron and her husband, Andrew Heron, she believes boxing’s momentum has spawned from a fundamental rule change that is better preparing fighters for the pros and making the sport more appealing to fans.
“It’s back on the rise again,” said Heron. “Since the change in scoring rules, moving from a points system to a professional system, it has brought more excitement and a rise in spectatorship from non fight fans.
“MMA’s popularity is a positive, because it just goes to show people still want to watch good pugilism,” she said. “.I think they help one another and MMA fighters are gravitating to a standing up game.
“They’re two completely different sports and to each their own but boxing will never die.”
Counter intuitive to boxing, Heron was able to find serenity — and subsequently herself — in the ring.
“You could probably write a movie about my story,” said Heron. “At the time I was going through a party phase in my life, taking ecstasy and cocaine. I had the desire to quit that lifestyle and replace that high with a different adrenaline rush.
“The void of that drug high was replaced when I stepped into the ring and from there I flourished, becoming a certified personal trainer, licensed level three boxing coach and have owned HUF at the same location for the past 15 years.”
Since that time, both the gym and Heron have grown. HUF is developing its own stable of fighters that are learning under Heron’s guidance and she is using her past experiences to mentor others.
Three amateurs and one professional fighter are currently boxing under the HUF brand. The three up and comers currently hold titles and are emerging onto the boxing scene, training for the upcoming Canadian National Championships.
“I’m training Caitlin Trenholme,” said Heron. “She is turning 18 this year, is currently the youth national female champion as well as reigning Youth Female Boxer of the Year.
“Together with my husband we’re also training two male amateur fighters in Kdee Von Warner and Khalil McIntyre. Khalil is our 14-year-old junior male Canadian Golden Gloves champion and Kdee is a Canadian Golden Gloves champion fighting at the elite level.”
HUF’s only signed professional is slated for a bout next month at the Matamy Athletic Centre, a historic venue famous for hosting, as Maple Leaf Gardens, a 1966 George Chuvalo vs. Muhammad Ali fight.
The venue hasn’t held a boxing event in nearly 40 years.
“We also have Larone Whyte, making his professional debut at 150 pounds on the undercard at Maple Leaf Gardens.” Said Heron.
Much like golf and tennis, boxing doesn’t follow a set approach when it comes to cultivating fighters and projecting them to the next level. HUF will play a crucial role in its fighters’ developments over the next few years.
“It all depends on their age and where they are at the moment,” said Heron. “Both Caitlin and Kdee are at prime ages where they’ll have to win nationals or we’ll have to change the game plan and go pro, Khalil could ultimately look at the Olympics first because he’s only 14-years-old but it’s all about evaluating what stage they’re at and making a decision as a team.”
Heron sees this as only the beginning for HUF when it comes to amateur boxing.
“Long term, I hope to bring these three athletes we have right now onto an Olympic or professional level, however ultimately we’d like to bring through some of the up and comers we have over time and work towards a world wide level expanding into other countries.”