The path to the 2019 national boxing championships in Langford starts this weekend.
While it’s a big step to nationals from the Boxing B.C. Emerald Gloves tournament for amateurs at City Centre Park on Friday and Saturday, you have to start somewhere.
Making his debut is Langford’s own Matt Daniels, a 19-year-old training with Westshore Boxing who graduated from Belmont last year and is working as a cook, while training with a goal of exploring a fight career.
“I’m not that nervous anymore, although I did struggle to make weight, but I made it,” Daniels said.
Fighters compete in three round matches over the two days, starting at 7 p.m. each night.
Daniels dropped down to bantamweight (123 pounds) from 132 pounds and is feeling good about his first competitive fight.
“I still have all the power and better cardio, I feel good being lighter,” Daniels said.
New to boxing, Daniels comes from a training background in wrestling, kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. To prepare, Daniels has sparred regularly with his Westshore Boxing coach Anthony Varela, an experienced amateur boxer carrying a 6-2 record.
Daniels also makes the trip downtown to Fisgard Street twice a week to train at former national champion Jason Heit’s Island MMA gym. There he trains alongside fighters such as Peter and Paul Lopez, and Mitch Strazzela, who is competing in mixed martial arts on Saturday for the Battlefield provincial title against Gio Platon at the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam.
The Lopez brothers, who graduated from Reynolds secondary’s wrestling program five years ago, have been patiently cultivating MMA and boxing experience, and are going to be a force, Heit said.
“Anyone who trains with the Lopez brothers as their No. 1 training partners, in the gym, everyday, is ready for anything, or anyone,” Heit said.
Fighting this weekend out of Island MMA are a pair of heavyweights (178 to 201 pounds) – Braden Horcroff, an ex-hockey player studying engineering, and Brandon Colantonio, who has 10 fights under him. The two won’t face each other as they’re in different divisions based on experience.
With provincials upcoming in December, some, such as Island MMA’s Terris Smith, will be watching from the corner this weekend.
“It’s just a good opportunity to see local talent here ahead of getting nationals here in April for 2019, which leads to the Olympic qualification tournament,” Heit said. “We have a lot of promising talent ready to reach the next level.”
Smith, a 26-year-old accountant, has six fights to her name but is recovering from a hand injury. Heit has high expectations for her and her sparring partner Sarah Moores, an Island Health employee, assuming she can recover from the injury in time for the match, Dec. 7-8 in Abbostford.
The 2019 Super Channel national championships are April 23 to 27, hosted by the Westin Bear Mountain Resort Community in Langford.
Tickets to the Emerald Gloves tournament are $25 for each day or $40 for both nights, Friday and Saturday, available at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m. with fights at 7 p.m. at City Centre Park (1089 Langford Pkwy).