Homegrown boxing vacuum

MURRAY GREIG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

The success of the Vancouver Olympics proved that latent nationalism is something Canadians shouldn't be afraid to embrace -- even at the risk of being labelled faintly jingoistic by foreign media.

It's a shame that same sense of entitlement doesn't extend to the single most important championship in Canadian boxing: the national heavyweight crown.

The title bout taking place March 27 in Orillia, Ont., underlines that point. Canadian Boxing Federation champion Grezegorz Kielsa (11-0, 5 KOs) hails from Bialystok, Poland -- the country he represented at the 2000 Olympic Games. He turned pro in 2006 and two years later took the "Canadian" title from six-foot-seven defending champ Raymond Olubowale -- who was born and raised in Kenya. Kielsa's opponent on March 27 will be Neven Pajkic (11-0, 5 KOs) -- who's from Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Do you see a pattern here?

"I think the lack of Canadian-born and trained heavyweights reflects the way the sport has changed for the big guys," two-time CBF champ Ken Lakusta opined this week.

"Over the past five years, especially, potential heavyweights coming out of the amateurs or college have turned to mixed martial arts instead of boxing. You can make pretty good money a lot quicker in MMA than in boxing because you don't have to fight your way through so much competition.

"I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that foreign-born fighters are dominating our heavyweight rankings, but in terms of fan recognition, it would be great to have more homegrown talent.

"Here in Edmonton we've got Tye Fields, who was born in the U.S. but has Native American heritage, as well as Sheldon Hinton. They're both ranked in the top five in the country and there's a few more guys moving on up, so I think that bodes well for the future of the Canadian title."

Even if the title is eventually reclaimed by a native-born Canadian, there's little chance he'll get a shot at the British Commonwealth crown as long as the Commonwealth Boxing Council continues to rank manufactured pretenders like Manchester's Tyson Fury ahead of the likes of Hinton, Fields or Montreal's Jean Francois Bergeron (27-2, 19 KOs).

At six-foot-nine and 260 pounds, the 21-year-old Fury has become the darling of the British press by beating up hand-picked victims en route to a 9-0 record. By summer he hopes to be positioned to challenge fellow Englishman Sam Sexton (13-1) for the Commonwealth belt -- something no Canadian-born heavyweight has been allowed to do since Trevor Berbick stopped Lakusta in 10 rounds back in 1983.

Incredibly, over the 110-year history of the British Empire/Commonwealth title, only two native-born Canadians -- Tommy Burns and Larry Gains -- have held it, and Lakusta and Vancouver's Gordie Racette are the only homegrown heavyweights to challenge for it.

That's gotta change.

Bronx Bomber

Congratulations to Julian Klima of Beverly Bronx Boxing for bringing home the 155-pound title from last weekend's junior nationals in Nova Scotia.

Just over a year after donning the gloves for the first time, the stylish 14-year-old starched his opponent at 1:33 of the opening round to become the first BBB fighter to earn a national crown.

"I can't describe how happy I was with Julian's effort; I was literally in tears," said Beverly Bronx founder and head coach Sheldon Hinton. "Him winning that title meant more to me than anything I've done as a pro. I'm so proud of him, I could bust."

Meanwhile, Hinton and the rest of the BBB crew have spent the past week relocating the gym into expansive new digs at 3910 118 Ave.

"We just outgrew our old location, to the point where we had to turn some kids away," said Hinton. "But here we've got upwards of 5,000 square feet, including an upper level where we have our office space. It's a perfect layout."

Added partner Omar Valdez: "I think this is where we were meant to be all along. You look outside, and we're almost right underneath the big Beverly sign. It's great to be right in the heart of the neighbourhood."


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