Eight Boxing Ontario legends were commemorated during a ceremony and awards presentation to their families on the second day of competition at the Legends of Boxing Series: In Honour of Pat Kelly; hosted on September 23-25, 2022 in Niagara Falls. Please learn more about the lives and legacies of these incredible legends below:
Wally Baines was involved with boxing since 1978 when he encouraged his son Brian to start training at the club. After completing the Level 1 and Level 2 coaching courses, Wally took over The Port Dalhousie Boxing Club in 1987. In 2003 the club became the Port Dalhousie Boxing Club Inc.
Wally did lots of roadwork in order to secure sponsors for his non-profit boxing club. He offered free memberships for youths 17 years and younger and even took them to lots of all-expense-paid boxing tournaments with the money raised from Nevada tickets and monthly bingos.
Wally really was a great organizer. He held three different $100 plate dinner/boxing card events with boxing guests Carmen Basilo, Fitzie Pruden, and Billy Conn in attendance.
Port Dalhousie Boxing Club was on St. Paul St. for 16 years; however, the city sold the building, forcing him to find another location. He found another spot at the old train station with the construction of an interior building and structural steel donated by sponsors Wally had interacted with over the years.
Wally passed away on November 27, 2017.
Frank Degazio started the Welland Boxing Club in 1976. There, he produced a number of Ontario and Canadian champions including Tommy Gillespie, Mark Rome, Fred Bassi, his son John Degazio, Pat Fisher, and Jimmy Hope to name a few. He coached the 1976-77 Ontario Junior Teams, and the Intermediate Ontario Team in 1978.
The Gym was moved a few times until Frank purchased the first boxing club in Niagara since the 50s and 60s. He began the era of boxing in Welland and hosted the 1977 Ontario Championships. He sold out most venues back in those days.
His brother John Degazio followed him a few years later with the Niagara Falls Boxing Club. There was a rich family tradition in boxing, as his brother Domenic helped out at the Belleville Boxing Club as well.
The Welland Boxing Club closed in 1984.
John Degazio was born in 1937 in Welland, Ontario and started boxing at a young age, not for the glory, but at a time when he had to feed himself.
As a young man he moved to Niagara Falls, New York to work on the power project. While working on the project, John was drafted and went to serve in the US 82nd Airborne Paratrooper Unit. He was on the All-American Boxing Team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He moved to Florida after the Army and worked in the construction industry as an Operating Engineer at Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Centre. There he met his wife, Dorothy, and they married in 1964. They eventually moved back to Canada and had two boys, John and Nick.
In 1974, John was responsible for opening the Niagara Falls Boxing Club with Ray McGibbon and Pat Kelly. The rest is history.
John passed away in 2012.
Ron Gallen started officiating and coaching in 1980-1986. He took over Niagara Falls Boxing Club from John Degazio and produced over 150 competitive boxers including several provincial champions, four national champions, and two Ringside champions.
A dedicated volunteer of the sport, Ron devoted six years to Boxing Canada’s Board of Directors and was also an executive member on the Boxing Ontario board for 13 years including time as President of the organization. Additionally, Ron held the positions of Chief Official and Director of Niagara Region.
Other accolades include the 2015 Niagara Legend, 2018 Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame, and 2019 Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship award.
Ron was a dedicated member of Boxing Ontario until his passing on February 8, 2021.
Pat Kelly co-founded Niagara Falls Boxing Club in 1974, and in 1980, founded Shamrock Boxing Club where his reputation for moulding young athletes into champions became legendary. Top athletes under his tutelage included Mike Strange and Billy Irwin, and at one point, Pat had five Canadian champions at his gym at the same time.
Pat was selected to be a National Team Coach for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and he was appointed Head Coach of the Canadian team that competed in Africa in 1989.
Not only was he a legendary coach, but Pat was a well respected and beloved sports figure in Niagara Falls, a father-figure to many athletes, a hero and Carnegie Foundation Medal recipient, and boxing community builder.
On April 5, 2020, the Canadian boxing world was heartbroken by the news that Pat Kelly lost his battle to COVID-19.
Ray McGibbon began boxing around the age of 15, and his boxing career led him to compete in Madison Square Gardens and Maple Leaf Gardens. In 1946, Ray was a Golden Gloves finalist. This same year, Ray and his brother John established St. Patrick’s Boxing Gym.
In the late 1970s, Ray McGibbonstarted the Niagara Falls Boxing Club with John Degazio. Through the years, Ray coached many champions. He was part of the 1983 and 1984 Ontario Boxing Championships when the Niagara Falls Boxing Club won the trophy for Most Outstanding Team, winning eight gold medals, one silver, and one bronze medal.
Ray coached many boxers who became Ontario and Canadian champions and Olympians including Tom “the Bomb” Glesby and Billy “the Kid” Irwin. Ray also coached Brian Kelly and Mike Strange, both former inductees of the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame.
Each year, the St. Catharines Boxing Club hosts the “Ray McGibbon’s Gloves Tournament” in Ray’s honour. This tournament is a stepping stone for many amateur boxers to advance their competitive careers, as boxers from across Ontario contend for the coveted title.
Keith Murphy got involved in boxing when he started sparring at the club on North Street in St. Catharines. He was a southpaw, a brawler, but his skills turned to coaching, as he was much better suited.
He started coaching at the St. Catharines Boxing Club, and his name became synonymous with his dedication to the athletes. He loved working with the kids; whether they were 11 years old, or 40 years young, it didn’t matter. If they showed the enthusiasm, he worked with them.
Keith was a St. Catharines Sports Wall of Fame inductee and Boxing Ontario Ring of Fame inductee in 2010.
Keith met Sharon in school and they were together for 45 years. They had two daughters and three grandsons.
Keith was a fighter, but after a 31-year battle with MS, Keith was finally free of pain in October 2020.
Raymond Napper Sr.
Raymond Napper Sr. was born in 1932. He was married to Anita and had four children. Ray and his daughter Brenda opened Nappers Club in 1977. Ray Napper Sr. was a two-time Olympic boxing coach for Canada in 1988 and 1992. He was the assistant coach in Lennox Lewis’ corner when he won the gold medal at the Olympics in 1988. At Nappers, he coached national team members Tom Glesby, Jamie Pegendam, Dennis McNeil, Jimmy Hope, and Jason Topolinsky. He coached Olympians Tom Glesby in 1988 and 1992 and Jamie Pegendam in 1988.
Ray’s wife, Anita, was a huge boxing fan and attended all the Nappers club competitions right up until her death. His son Jeff coached at the club, and his grandson Ray still coaches to this day. His grandsons Todd and Ray Napper were both Canadian Champions.
Ray Sr. was inducted into Boxing Canada’s Hall of Fame, Boxing Ontario’s Ring of Fame, and he is on the city of Welland Sports Wall of Fame.
Ray passed away in 1995.