O’Connell giving back after facing obstacles

Cam O’Connell, 23, has had to face many obstacles in his young life, but because of his determination, his strength of character, and the support he has received from those closest to him, those obstacles have also presented him with opportunities to grow. Now the Red Deer professional boxer feels it is his time to start giving back to his community.

Cam O’Connell, 23, has had to face many obstacles in his young life, but because of his determination, his strength of character, and the support he has received from those closest to him, those obstacles have also presented him with opportunities to grow.

Now the Red Deer professional boxer feels it is his time to start giving back to his community.

“I have a list (of people who helped get me through the tough times),” explained O’Connell. “A very good counsellor at my school, my coaches, my father and mother, and (fellow boxer) Arash Usmanee. His positivity even when the worst things happened. He was a role model to me, not just a mentor.”

“The community has done so much for me! I felt that I should be giving back and I didn’t know how to do it. I’ve always coached kids and worked with them, but recently I got to do an anti-bullying speech.”

As a professional boxer O’Connell has a 3-0-1 record. As an amateur he had 136 bouts, and 101 wins. He was a 12-time Alberta provincial champion, four-time Western Canadian champion, two-time Canadian national champion, bronze medallist at the Junior Olympics in 2005, and Ringside world champion in 2007.

But life has not always been so successful for O’Connell. Middle school was an extremely difficult time in his life. It was a time when he was bullied, and he would get into trouble for fighting back.

“Middle School was tough,” said the boxer. “It was just when I started boxing and being bullied. I would fight back and I would get into a lot of scraps at school and then people heard I was a boxer and it would cause even more bullying and scraps at school.”

With the help of school staff, his coaches and his family, O’Connell was able to overcome that dark period in his life.

“By the time I hit Grade Eight, I understood boxing a little bit more and I knew what I was doing and I was confident in my abilities to box,” he said. “But I didn’t have to fight. I didn’t have to prove myself anymore to bullies. People still talked, there is always going to be people who talk, but when you know your abilities you don’t have to prove it.

“It gave me self-confidence to move on in life, don’t worry about the little things that people say, just keep going. That is what I try to tell the kids at the presentations. I had a lot of questions about how I overcame it (bullying) and whether boxing is the way. But I don’t think that boxing is the way. I think any sport, anything that you can do to get your mind off of the bullying and to gain confidence will help you to overcome bullying. That is the reason I kind of got into boxing, not to defend against bullies but to have self confidence to overcome bullies.”

O’Connell has twice had opportunities to talk at bullying workshops at the Red Deer Public Library. The audience included school groups, but also adults with mental disabilities, with stories about how they would get bullied by kids when they take public transportation.

O’Connell enjoyed giving his presentation at these workshops, but what he appreciated the most was working one-on-one with those in attendance.

“I have gotten a chance to tell my story a couple times now and the anti-bullying is working for me,” explained the boxer. “I like giving back, and it feels like I am helping these kids overcome big problems. The feeling is amazing. That one-on-one is where I felt I was making the difference. Anyone can give a speech, but talking to the kids one-on-one is what helped the kids.”

After O’Connell won his first Canadian title and gained some fame at a local level, he found that along with the accolades that a negative element became interested in who he was, and he entered another dark period in his life. But again for the boxer this was just another obstacle, something that he could learn from to become a more positive person.

“I got into a legal issues and still have charges pending,” said the boxer. “I was involved with the darker side of society, doing the wrong things, and the negativity got to me. I got into trouble and I realized there is a good way to live your life and a bad way. That is what I needed. I guess some people need that. They need a big situation to happen in their life to change the way they go about living their lives. This was a turning point for me. Now I can help other people get out of it.

“My team . . . Doug Bolianatz, Roman Rzepkowski, and Robert Carswell are focusing on the positive, that is where we are going. I always wanted to give back but I thought I needed a title to start giving back, but now I know I am at a level where I can give back, anyone can give back in that sense. With the anti-bullying it was another opportunity for me to give back.”

O’Connell has another opportunity to give back to his community when he fights for the first time as a professional in front of his home crowd Friday at the Sheraton Hotel. The undefeated boxer will be taking on Mexico’s Luis Arjona, 3-1-1, in the six-round main event.

“I am excited to fight at home,” said the lightweight boxer. “It shouldn’t affect how I box. Once I’m in the ring my concentration is so good now that I can fight anywhere. The ring is my home.”

If O’Connell wins this bout, he will be ranked in Canada, which will be a major step for him in accomplishing his goals.

“I want the Canadian title,” said O’Connell. “It is within our reach. I know I can beat some of the guys who are ranked, so it is just a matter of time before I get the opportunity to fight them. Then I would like to follow in the footsteps of Arash Usmanee and get ranked in the world and fight for a title and bring it home to Red Deer.”

The undercard will feature a number of amateur bouts, including Red Deer’s Brian Samuel fighting Devon Reti of Calgary for a provincial championship and an opportunity to represent Alberta at the national championships.

For ticket or table information for the Tuff Gloves event call (403) 877-4391. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read