The St. Albert Boxing Academy is taking its stand against bullying into the ring.
The Boxers Against Bulling club card next Saturday at St. Albert Community Hall was organized by head coach Brad Hortie after the stabbing death of 14-year-old Devan Bracci-Selevyi outside his Hamilton high school in front of his mom Oct. 7. Two brothers, 14 and 18 years old, were charged with first-degree murder.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and police confirmed they were notified of bullying incidents targeting Bracci-Selevyi.
“With what happened in Hamilton with the death of the young kid, I was planning on having a boxing show anyways so I thought now is the time because as long as you are in a position to have a platform you should say something important, and our message is we’ve got to put an end to bullying,” said Hortie of the boxing event that has ties with Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.
Hortie makes it a priority to raise the issue of bullying with his boxers at training sessions Monday and Wednesday nights at Sir George Simpson School.
“After the warm-up, before we get started with the boxing part, I stress how important it is that we don’t bully and if they are they should speak to an adult or go to a teacher and make sure your voices are heard,” Hortie said. “We have only one rule in our gym and that’s respect with a capital R. You respect yourself and you respect others regardless of race, colour of skin, body shape, gender or sexual identity.”
Boxers Against Bullying will feature 10 bouts over two hours starting at 2 p.m. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. and admission is $20.
The legendary Scotty (Bulldog) Olson and the Edmonton-based Ryan (The Real Deal) Ford, a former mixed martial arts competitor turned boxer and the son of retired professional boxer Al Ford, are expected to be in attendance to sign autographs.
“It’s going to be an exciting afternoon,” Hortie said. “It’s going to be everything from little guy fun box, like no decision bouts, right up to advanced seniors.
“It’s a wide variety with all sizes and shapes from little guys to super heavyweights, the banger action."
The participants hail from as far away as Calgary, Cold Lake and Slave Lake. Female bouts are also scheduled.
“It will be a real exciting show," Hortie said.
Hunter Miles, 11, of St. Albert will make his ring debut at Boxers Against Bullying against an opponent in the 75- to 80-pound range.
“It’s a big step for Hunter,” Hortie said. “He was so shy when he came here. He couldn’t look me in the eye.”
Is Miles nervous about going toe-to-toe in his first bout?
“I’m kind of, but not really,” said the Grade 6 Leo Nickerson student. “I hope I’m not that nervous. I want to try and win.
“I know my dad is really excited for me to do it.”
Miles has been putting in extra workouts in preparation for his bout.
“Me and my dad practice in our garage some nights just on the double jab and the right and then the left hook. That’s my main combo,” said Miles, who has dabbled in the sweet science before joining the St. Albert club last year.
“I like it here because it’s fun and I like working out,” Miles said. “There’s lots of people and I have lots of friends here.
“It’s also fun working with the punching bag,” added Miles, who hopes to “do more tournaments” after Boxing Against Bullying, the second fight card initiative by the St. Albert Boxing Academy since replacing the St. Albert Boxing Club in 2017.
The Home Opener in November of that first year was staged in the Simpson gym with a wide range of bouts.
“We were happy to have it here the first time, but (the community hall) is a nicer venue and it's right in downtown St. Albert. I love having it there. It’s going to be great,” Hortie said. “Hopefully we can raise some funds so we can do a little bit more travel this year. We're non-profit so it’s tough. I’m also volunteering and it’s a big job.”
The Home Opener was also the first card in St. Albert since the 1994 Alberta Winter Games when the boxing event was staged at Simpson.
“It was awesome to bring boxing back to St. Albert and now the club has grown a little bit,” said Hortie of the membership ranks peaking at 20 in season three.
“We’re picking up a little bit every year,” Hortie noted. “It’s kind of hit and miss some days at training. Some days we have 10, some days we have 15 and some days we’ll have a full house of 20.
“We range right from eight-year-olds and up. I have some mother and son and mother and daughter teams.”
The Simpson lunchroom is turned into a makeshift gym for the boxers.
“It’s hard to run a boxing program two days a week, but we do our best. Sometimes we go to other clubs for sparring,” Hortie said. “This is also our last year here. There’re going to be doing major renovations (at Simpson) so we’re looking for an affordable facility in St. Albert for the fall of 2020.”
Hortie, 59, was recently recognized as a lifetime member of Boxing Alberta.
“It’s a pretty distinguished honourship. It’s very exciting,” said the son of the late Paul Hortie, who coached the Canadian team at the 1976 and 1988 Olympics and 1986 Commonwealth Games and was the 1991 Alberta Sports Hall of Fame inductee as a coach and builder in boxing.