Red Deer Boxing Club head coach Rob Carswell is standing behind a local boxing champion who has been charged following a police drug sting.
Carswell said Thursday he can’t believe that Cameron O’Connell, 20, an internationally recognized amateur boxing champion, is mixed up in the investigation that Alberta government officials are calling a major blow to organized crime in the province.
“Cam is an absolute delight to coach and has always been an easy person to handle,” said Carswell, who has coached several athletes to Canadian and international championships.
“I started coaching him when he was 11 or 12 years old and he always worked and trained hard to become a top fighter,” Carswell said.
A lightweight class fighter now, O’Connell has trained and worked out with the club since returning from Calgary where he lived for a time while attending Mount Royal College, Carswell said.
“When he came back from Calgary, he said he didn’t like the experience,” Carswell said.
O’Connell is an eight-time Alberta provincial champion and 2007 Ringside World Champion and a national champion in 2005.
He recently fought the Canadian lightweight champion for a chance to represent Canada at international competitions but lost a 7-3 decision, Carswell said.
“I will continue to support Cam any way I can and for his sake I hope he comes through this all right,” Carswell said.
“I’ll be there for him,” he added.
The club, Carswell added, promotes high character standards and believes people who train with them should always show respect for others and the law.
O’Connell was one of nine people, including two other Red Deer men, charged in the bust, which police say took $1.5 million worth of cocaine off the street.
O’Connell is charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and converting powder cocaine into crack cocaine.
He will appear in Calgary provincial court on Nov. 16 to possibly enter a plea and make an election of how he wants to be tried.
Matthew Earles, 23, and Brent Cyr, 21, are also from Red Deer and each face two drug-related charges.
Also charged is Nicholas Soto, 27, who is formerly from Red Deer but moved to Calgary. Soto faces 14 charges related to drugs and possession of weapons.
Police announced the bust and charges on Wednesday.
The police allege the drug network supplied several criminal organizations and Alberta street gangs with large quantities of cocaine.
Police searched residences in Red Deer, Calgary and Lethbridge, seizing 11 kg of cocaine.