Back from the brink

MURRAY GREIG, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Sheldon Hinton loves the fact that his most vociferous critics have never met him face-to-face.

"To them I'm just this scary thug ... a bad dude who does bad things and hangs with a bad crowd. But don't judge me on what you've heard - ignorance is poison," Canada's No. 6-ranked heavyweight said during a break from training at Beverly Bronx Boxing, the gym he opened last year in northeast Edmonton.

In addition to managing his own career and coaching inner-city kids in one of Alberta's fast-growing amateur clubs, Hinton is learning the ropes in promoting. On April 3, his PrimeTime Promotions is staging El Matanzas ("The Massacre"), a pro show at The Palace banquet centre featuring the Beverly Bronx stable against Mexican fighters.

"Hey, I don't deny that I've done some bad stuff in the past; it was called survival," said Hinton. "And I'm not saying I'm innocent of a lot of that bad stuff. But I'll die before I let anybody use their ignorance and prejudice to bad-mouth my gym or what we've got going for the kids here.

"This isn't just a gym; it's a sanctuary. The home of the Triple Bs. And our home is powered by soul power. You can feel it as soon as you walk in. You can see it in the faces of the kids and their parents.

"When we first started out, somebody told me not to fall in love with these kids, but it's too late, man. I've only got a few fights left in me, and after that, my future is this gym, these kids and PrimeTime Promotions. Ain't nobody gonna stand in our way."

Hinton is the first to admit it's been an uphill climb - and the summit is still a long ways off.

"The struggle only makes it better," he said. "I come from a family of 15. We had very loving parents, but my mom died when I was in Grade 6. She was the world to me, and it was her dream that all her kids would get a good education. I was on my own at 14, but I graduated high school, went to college down south and earned a Bachelor of Science degree, with a minor in education.

"Bad things start happening to people when they make bad choices, and for me, the baddest choice was booze. I started drinking after college and became an alcoholic for six years, drowning my sorrows like a punk. It was stupid, and it took me that long to turn things around.

"By the time I got back to Edmonton and started working with troubled kids, I had the booze licked. But then other stuff happened. I fell in with the wrong crowd, and I before long I was back at the bottom of the well. It bottomed out when I went to jail. That's when I found out who my true friends were; the ones who knew the real me and didn't turn their backs."

The truest of those friends was Omar (The Mexicutioner) Valdez, a buzz-saw bantamweight who had come up through the amateur ranks with Hinton. Valdez put up the bail money, and together they hatched a dream to turn pro, open a gym and get into promoting.

"I will never, ever forget that it was Omar who came through for me when all the rest of my so-called friends wouldn't give me the time of day," said Hinton. "We'd had the dream for a long time, but it was only when we were both pretty much at the end of our ropes that we made it come true - and now there's no looking back."

Valdez, currently ranked the No. 1 contender for the vacant Canadian super featherweight crown, will be featured on the April 3 card, along with Beverly Bronx stablemates Jason Delaronde, James Cermak and newly signed Arash Usmanee.

In the main event, Hinton will defend his CAM Boxing (Canada-America-Mexico) heavyweight title.

In the meantime, between training, coaching and promoting, it's business as usual for Hinton, Valdez and the rest of the Triple Bs.

"All I'm saying is, don't judge me and don't judge what we're doing until you see it with your own eyes," Hinton said before heading out to the street to pass out sandwiches and oranges to the homeless.

"Like I said, it's all about choices. And if you choose to change, to do right, good things happen."

MURRAY.GREIG@SUNMEDIA.CA


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