Regina mayor has the chops

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

If a Regina city council meeting ever gets out of hand, Mayor Pat Fiacco could serve as referee.

If things really got ugly, he could bust a few heads.

Fiacco, now serving his third term as the Queen City's chief executive, is a former head official for Boxing Canada. In that capacity he refereed and judged hundreds of bouts in the Commonwealth Games, Pan-Am Games, Continental Cup and the 2000 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Before becoming a ref, he was the Canadian amateur bantamweight champ, retiring in 1983 "with a winning record in a weight class where it was sometimes difficult to find opponents," he chuckles.

Fiacco was at the Edmonton Event Centre for yesterday's opening day of the Canadian Junior Nationals - partly to renew acquaintances with amateur officials and partly to show his support for Team Saskatchewan, which is ranked as one of the strongest contingents heading into the five-day event.

"I've had a love affair with boxing all my life," the 46-year-old Regina native said prior to the opening bouts of the tournament that's showcasing more than 200 fighters. "Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with the sport. When I quit fighting, I immediately got involved in refereeing and judging.

"The four years I spent as head official for Boxing Canada gave me a real appreciation of the worldwide support for amateur boxing, and I see the same thing today when I officiate at local shows back home. There's a purity and a nobleness about this sport that's unmatched in all the others."

Fiacco ranks working the Athens Olympics as the highlight of his ring career - particularly since he was selected from an international pool of hundreds to be one of the 40 officials charged with overseeing the gold medal bouts.

"I was in the ring for one championship and I judged six others, so playing a role in seven of the 11 finals was really exciting," he said. "To see the level of dedication and determination of those elite athletes was amazing."

As for mixing boxing and politics, Faccio thinks there's a lot of common ground.

"I firmly believe that my background in boxing paved the way for the success I've had in the political arena," he said. "My parents instilled a lot of good values in me when I was growing up, but it was boxing that really gave me the discipline to rely on myself.

"I don't think there's a better activity for young kids when it comes to teaching discipline, the value of hard work, learning how to succeed and how to accept failure. All the things I learned in the ring have stood me in good stead in politics."

Fiacco still likes to work out with the heavy bag and he's involved in celebrity fundraising bouts a couple of times a year, but his latest sporting passion is triathlon.

"I always wanted to be a triathlete, but I didn't know how to swim," he laughed. "So in January 2007 I took the plunge, in more ways than one. I learned how to swim well enough to enter five triathlons later that year, and I did five more last year, including the Canadian Ironman in Penticton, B.C.

"There's a lot of similarities between boxing and triathlon. The training can be kind of lonely and, in many ways, your biggest competition is with yourself - but that's part of the appeal, too."

As for having to rein in his 10 cohorts on Regina city council, Faccio said that's the easiest job he's ever had.

"Bar none, we have the best, most progressive city administration in the country," he beamed.

"There's never any bickering or squabbling," he continued. "Watching one of our council meetings would be really dull for anybody looking for a good fight."

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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