One of the biggest boxing events in Alberta is just a week away and local athletes are itching to enter the ring.
The Alberta Golden Gloves will get underway May 26 at the Westerner Park and a longtime boxing coach from the Red Deer Boxing Club has thrown his name in the ring.
Roman Rzepowski, 31, now spends the majority of his time coaching but is set to strap on the gloves for the big amateur tournament.
Rzepowski decided in January he would fight in the Golden Gloves and has dropped nearly 30 pounds in hopes of competing in the middleweight division.
He said he’s motivated by the kids he coaches and the adults he works with at Dopamain Boxing Gym, a class that helps people with Parkinson’s, dementia and Multiple Sclerosis try to fight their symptoms through activity.
“They’re the reason I’m stepping back into the ring. Every fight that we talk about, every fight that I’ve cornered, they’ve always asked me when I’m going to step back in,” he said.
“It got to the point where the stars lined up. We’re going to have a tournament at home. Huge tournament. I’m excited to be fighting at home.”
Four years ago in the light heavyweight division at provincials in Red Deer, he lost on a split decision. With all the support this time around, he hopes for a more positive finish.
“Striving to win this one. Been working with Cam O’Connell, Red Deer’s Professional Boxer,” said Rzepowski, who also serves as O’Connell’s coach and head trainer.
“Trying to keep up with him is impossible at my size, huge motivation to have him in my corner for this fight. The biggest intention is to win.”
Rzepowski added that he hopes to make the hometown faithful proud at the event and most importantly honour the sport that’s given him so much.
“Golden Gloves is something I would have always liked to have on my resume,” he said.
“In the past, I wasn’t too hungry as an athlete. I was more hungry to coach and train individuals. I love the sport. It’s helped me become the person I am and make the family I have.”
Dallas Lehr, another Central Alberta boxer who will fight at Golden Gloves was just looking for an outlet when he found boxing.
As a Psychiatric Nurse, it was actually one of his patients who turned him onto the club.
In 2012, Lehr walked into the Red Deer Boxing Club, saw a sign in the window for the Rumble in Red Deer. After training for a few months and despite losing his first fight he was hooked.
“I just loved it. I was here two times a week. I have four kids so life got busy. Been in and out but as my kids get older, I need to get in better shape so I heard about the golden gloves,” he said.
“This is an awesome opportunity… I’m 38, this is a bucket list thing for me. Trying to have fun and trying to stay in shape.”
Sylvan Lake’s Steve Beagle started boxing at 25 and saw the Golden Gloves as the perfect opportunity to see how he measures up against some high-level amateur boxers. It will be his first official bout.
“I’ve been on and off for a little while, for the Golden Gloves just wanted to do it because it will be a cool experience. Be a part of the tournament down there and get a fight in,” he said.
Beagle, 30, whose brother is Washington Capitals forward Jay Beagle, said he’ll expect a lot of family to be in the stands at the Westerner Park, even if his brother is still in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think I’ll be a little nervous, but excited more than anything. I’m feeling good, pretty confident. You just don’t know with boxing. Don’t know how good the other guy is going to be in comparison to yourself, so there’s a lot of unknowns but that’s exciting,” he said.
Coming off a win a month ago against a serious title competitor in the middleweight division, Rzepowski is just ready to give it his best shot when the bell rings on May 26.
“I love this sport, I’m going in to have as much fun as I can, hopefully, we’re going to win,” Rzepowski said. “I’m going to leave everything in the ring. Win or lose, I’m going to walk out with a smile.”