Whether he's directing referees, directing a promotion or taking direction from a movie producer, Roland Labbe is the consummate pro.
If you look closely at the opening scene of Resurrecting the Champ, the Samuel L. Jackson movie that was shot in Calgary a couple of years ago, you'll see Labbe, Boxing Alberta's tireless director of officials, portraying a referee and mouthing the count over a fallen fighter.
NO TALKING, PLEASE
"I couldn't actually say the count, which was kind of weird, because if they used my voice I would have had to join the Screen Actors Guild and it would've cost the producers more money," Labbe chuckled over lunch earlier this week.
"They ended up dubbing in somebody else's voice and then using (Red Deer referee) Len Koivisto as my 'foot double' for a follow-up scene, so naturally I like to tell everyone that I got star billing over Lenny ... which is obviously the way it should have been."
Hanging around the movie set gave Labbe an appreciation of the thousand-and-one little details that go into creating a seamless production - something he's attempting to do in his latest role as promoter of the Canadian Junior Nationals tournament Feb. 24-28 at West Edmonton Mall.
"We have over 200 male and female fighters in the junior (15-16), youth (17-18) and senior (19 and over) divisions, and for many of them this represents the last hurdle to getting on the national team and having a shot at the 2012 Olympics," said Labbe, who coaches kids at the Avenue Boxing Club in northeast Edmonton when he's not overseeing the biggest amateur ring event to come to the city in more than a decade.
One of the showcase fighters competing will be world titleholder Mary Spencer of Windsor, Ont., who defeated Nicol Jackson of the U.S. 9-2 in the 66 kg final at the AIBA world championships in November. Spencer made history by teaming up with Quebec's Arianne Fortin (70 kg) to become the first Canadians to win gold at the same world championship in China.
"We're excited about having Mary fighting in Edmonton because pound for pound she's the best female fighter in Canadian amateur boxing," Labbe said. "But being the world champion doesn't automatically give her a free pass at this competition. She's going to have to step up and fight, just like all the other provincial champions and nationally ranked challengers. That's one of the great things about a tournament like this - there's no easy route to the final. With so many talented fighters coming in from every part of the country, there's bound to be some upsets. Having a provincial title or being a nationally ranked challenger is no guarantee of advancement."
Another name certain to attract some notice is Adam Trupish, the Edmonton-based junior middleweight who was Canada's lone fighter at the Beijing Olympics. A nine-time national champ and ranked No. 5 in the world, Trupish, who turned 30 last week, was unable to defend his title at last month's national elite championships in Trois Rivieres because of a hand injury. Consequently, he must go back in the qualifying pool in order to earn an opportunity to fight the new champ.
Newly crowned Canadian 75 kg champ Susan Haas and Alberta 81 kg titleholder Paul MacKenzie of Edmonton's Cougar Boxing Club, Avenue Boxing's Erin Krekoski - who took silver in the 60 kg division at the 2008 nationals - and Alberta 60 kg champ Robbie Cuisine from the West Edmonton Knights are other notables who will be looking to take the next big step in their amateur careers at the junior nationals.
"It will be five days of intense competition, but it's also going to be five days of fun and camaraderie for the best young fighters from all over Canada," said Labbe.
Afternoon and evening bouts will be held Feb. 24-26 at the Edmonton Event Centre, followed by two days of competition at Fantasyland Hotel, including an evening dinner show on Feb. 27. For tickets or more info, call Labbe at 780-915-9296 or Cyndie at 780-718-0724.