Heavyweight boxer Arthur Cook picked up the nickname The Bear, not because he is particularly ferocious or dangerous, although, in the ring, he can be.
"My first manager called me The Bear because all I would do is get out of bed, train, eat and then go back to bed. He said it was just like a bear coming out of a cave," said Cook, who will meet Brampton bruiser Greg Kielsa tonight at Casino Rama, with Kielsa's Canadian title on the line.
Cook, 30, is a familiar name in Canadian fight circles. A longtime top-ranked amateur, Cook turned pro in 2000 and in six years crafted an impressive 12-1-1 record before going into a bit of a free fall. He now is 13-4-2, with four KOs, having only won one of his past four fights.
However, the proud Ojibwa, who grew up in and around the Winnipeg area, said his record does not reflect his true skill. Many of his recent bouts were taken on short notice when he wasn't in prime shape.
For the Kielsa fight, Cook said has trained long and hard in Las Vegas and, before that, was in Germany sparring with Nikolai (The Russian Giant) Valuev, the 7-foot WBA world champion.
"To be a native heavyweight champion would be a big thing for me," said Cook, of tonight's title bout. "A lot of kids on the reserve don't see a bigger world than just what's on the reserve. By winning the Canadian title, I will show them, including my younger brother Walter, who is an amateur boxer, that hard work can pay off."
Cook said it was an older brother, Vernon, who got him into boxing. That is, one day, Vernon announced that he had found a boxing club in Winnipeg and was going to join.
"He was 11 at the time and I was 9, so he told me I couldn't come," said Cook, who already was a boxing fan by then. "One day, he walked to the club and I hid behind trees following him all the way. When he caught me, it was too far for him to tell me to go home, so I ended up staying."
As for Kielsa, the former Polish national team fighter, who turned pro in his adopted country in 2000, defeated Toronto's Raymond Olubowale for the Canadian title on Nov. 21, 2008, back at Rama. The same card had headliner Steve Molitor of Sarnia lose his IBF super bantamweight title to Celestino Caballero of Panama. Kielsa, 29, is 8-0 as a pro with three KOs.
Kielsa is considered the favourite, although fight promoter Allan Tremblay said he never has seen Cook in such good shape.
"This is no walk in the park for Kielsa," Tremblay said. "Don't forget the pride factor here. Arthur's fighting on a reserve in front of his own crowd. And he always does come to fight, but in this kind of condition, this might be a bit more than Kielsa thought is coming."
The main event for the Rumble at Rama VII card will feature a pair of top-ranked super bantamweights, Panama's Mauricio Martinez (35-8-1 23KOs) facing Mexican brawler Heriberto Ruiz (40-7-2 19 KOs) with the winner fighting either Caballero or Molitor, likely in June.
Molitor is expected to announce his comeback tonight before the main event.