Card takes a swing at kidney disease

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

There's nothing better than doing what you love.

Debbie Richards was a national boxing champion before retiring five years ago.

She regretted doing it and is now making up for lost time.

Faisal Rehman is a doctor who loves boxing, but what he's taken a real liking to is raising funds to fight kidney disease.

Kathy Ure is a boxing coach and trainer who loves doing what she does especially when it morphs into benefiting not only boxers but also the community.

It all comes together Sept. 24 with the second annual Showdown in the Downtown boxing card at the London Convention Centre.

The first one last year raised $110,000 for the Kidney Clinical Research Unit.

That was a card that featured Canada against the United States.

This one will feature Canada against Ireland. Richards will be a main eventer.

Rehman will fight again. He was a main attraction in the first event. He is the program director of the division of nephrology at London Health Sciences Centre. He treats kidney disease.

He has used boxing as a way to regain control of his fitness and health.

Ure, a nurse by trade, also heads the not-for-profit Sharky's Gym in Sarnia. She will have three boxers on the card, including Richards.

Richards will use the card as one more step in her goal of getting to the 2012 Olympics, the first time women's boxing will be recognized as an Olympic sport.

When she left the ring five years ago, she was a Canadian champion. Since then, she has gone back to school to work on a career and spent time raising her 10-year-old daughter.

But the lure of the leather wouldn't let her go.

"When I stopped in 2004, I was on the national team," said Richards, who was 26 when she retired. "I stopped for various reasons back then. Girls never got carded. Most of the guys got carded if they were on the national team but not girls. I was on it for four years but I needed money to live.

"I got to thinking, what am I going to do if I keep boxing and get hurt? What I am going to do? I had no school, no money, no anything. So I had to make a choice.

"I've always regretted it. I've always loved it. It was just a money issue."

Richards went to Fanshawe College and is now at Western, doing a double major in criminology and sociology.

She began boxing again in October and finished second in the Canadian championships.

In order to qualify for the Olympics, she will have to move up in weight and win the 60-kilogram division at the Canadian championships next year.

"She'll have one shot at it, but she'll do it," Ure said. "I have no doubt in my mind. Give her time to get back into it. Now it's down to serious training, training four days a week, running, biking and a lot of cross-fitness training.

"I took her to Cuba in March and she was trained by Teofilo Stevenson and I'm bringing a Cuban coach to Canada in August to work every day with Debbie."

Stevenson is considered one of the great amateur heavyweight boxers in history. The Cuban won gold medals in three successive Olympics.

Richards said getting back into boxing helped her clear her head of other stuff in her life.

"There was a lot of bad things going on in my life," she said. "My mom had a brain aneurism. She was in hospital and now a nursing home and my dad passed away. That also might have had something to do with it. I think it helped me to get back to boxing because I'm always so happy when I am boxing or training. That's how it's always been with boxing."

While the bouts haven't been set, Richards will likely get a top-notch contender. It may even be Katie Taylor, the Irish world champion.

"I still don't feel I am where I was before but I'm getting there," Richards said. "I keep progressing when I train or spar and everyone is telling me I'm getting there. Five years off . . . I'm 31. I just wish I was younger. I wish I hadn't taken the five years off but I can't think about that now. I just focus on the future."

The Showdown in the Downtown was a major success last year. Rehman has two goals this year. "To win and to raise more money," he said.

The money will go to three areas this year -- the Matthew Mailing Centre for Translational Transplant Studies, Kidney Clinical Research Unit and the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

The Matthew Mailing Centre is at London Health Sciences Centre. Mailing, a young man who developed a rare heart disease and died after a heart transplant, left part of his estate to develop the centre.

"Its a research centre for organ transplants, not only heart but kidney, liver and pancreas," Rehman said. "The centre will be completed in the summer of this year but is still short a lot of money for lab stuff."

Ure, who is involved with the Ontario and Canadian boxing teams, loves what the event does for boxing and the community."

"It takes average, every-day people out of that life and lets them see that people can make a difference," she said. "If you really want to change your life, you can do that. Boxing will do that. It doesn't matter who you are, how big you are, how little you are, what colour you are, what job you have. It will change your life."

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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