It’s a symbolic sign of the times, one that could apply to many sports or arts ventures, that the first post-pandemic amateur boxing card on the Island is billed Back on Track.
The 13-bout card is on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Bayview Place Roundhouse and will feature boxers from Western Canada eligible to compete for berths in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
It is the first amateur card on the Island since the 2019 Canadian championships held on Bear Mountain, which was the first qualifying step for the Tokyo Olympics. A lot has happened since then. Not much of it good.
“Full credit to these athletes who stayed busy and motivated through the pandemic. Boxing careers are short and it has not been easy on them,” said Victoria coach Jason Heit, whose Champ Productions is hosting the card.
“It’s been frustrating but everybody is back and moving. There’s a lot of talent in Western Canada but it needs cards and bouts in which to develop.”
The feature bout Saturday evening will pair 2019 national-championship silver-medallist Terris Smith of Langford, who recently beat the Canada No. 1. Smith will be fighting Saphir Vendroux of Vancouver in a women’s 57-kg. match.
Smith, an accountant by trade, has described boxing as a good release from her day job. The 28-year-old first stepped into the ring just to give it a try in a charity boxing event.
“Terris Smith is right on the cusp of the national team. She is so close,” said Heit.
The second-to-final bout will feature the big boys in the men’s 91-plus kg. class with 2019 national championship silver-medallist Brandon Colantonio, a 26-year-old Victoria carpenter, clashing with Danilo Miljevic of Calgary.
National championship men’s 67-kg. bronze-medallist Anthony Verala of Comox, a University of Victoria graduate in psychology and sociology, will also be fighting on the card.
Heit coaches Smith, Colantonio and Verala and is himself a former national team boxer, who fought in the 1995 Pan Am Games before turning professional after just missing the Canadian team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Heit was asked about the recent tribulations at Boxing Canada with high performance director Daniel Trepanier stepping down this month after more than 100 Canadian boxers called for his resignation and accused the organization, according to Canadian Press reports, of having a toxic culture of fear, silence, favoritism and physical and psychological abuse. That echoed similar recent issues and accusations involving national teams in Canadian rugby, gymnastics and bobsled.
Among those cited as saying he had a bad experience with Boxing Canada was three-time Canadian amateur heavyweight-champion Bryan Colwell of Victoria, who has turned pro.
“I have remained far removed from the political side on purpose and stuck to coaching and teaching at the club level,” said Heit, who has not been involved with Boxing Canada since his amateur fighting days as an athlete.
“I hope Boxing Canada gets moving in the right direction.”
Heit has always been in the sport for the right reasons. Now he wants those Back on Track.
Tickets for Saturday’s card, which will be broadcast on Shaw Direct, are available at the door or through SelectYourTickets.com.