There is certainly a resurgence these days over at the Valley East Boxing Club (VEBC), with the group welcoming in athletes who wish to step in the ring and compete, and others looking to draw fitness and fun from the pastime.
Matt Cooper ranks in the former category. The 25 year old is one of two local pugilists who find themselves attending the 2019 Super Channel Championships in Victoria, British Columbia (Patrick Martin from the Top Glove Academy in the second Sudbury entry) this week.
Both locals qualified out of the Ontario tournament in early December, though Cooper suggested that seems like a lifetime ago, in terms of the style of boxer one would now see out west. At the time that I qualified, I had only been coming here (VEBC) for about two months, he said. I've had more time to work on new strategies, new techniques that I am using.
I'm a much different boxer, Cooper added. I'm focusing a lot more on defense, and moving laterally on offense. But defense, especially, is the big change. While the former AAA hockey talent has always felt relatively comfortable stepping into the site of his bouts, there is a little bit of an extra giddy-up in his step as he readied for his first trip to the west coast.
With these new additions to my game, I find myself a lot more confident. That's been very helpful. The parts that I was lacking in before have been addressed and improved. Before, I was good at some things, but there were some holes in my game, mainly on defense.
Still, he is making his very first experience at nationals, despite having more than 25 fights to his credit, going in. I am excited to see the quality of boxing at the event, he said. I've done two international competitions that I think were good indicators to see where other countries are at. But I'm not 100% sure what to expect here.
Cooper is fighting in the Elite Male classification, pitted in a group of seven in the 91 kg weight class, a collection of talent that includes two representatives from B.C., Alberta and Ontario, and one from Quebec. For his part, Martin in in the Junior Men's division, 60 kg, with four other entries (Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia and a second boxer from Ontario).
Also on hand and proudly laying claim to Sudbury as home are coaches Gord Apolloni (Top Glove Boxing) and Peter Yannacoureas (Valley East Boxing Club), both part of the Team Ontario staff of six.