It’s time for Feature Friday, where we share the stories about the incredible people in the Boxing Ontario community, and this week’s feature is Lawrence Choi, a coach who trains out of Cabbagetown Boxing Club in Toronto.

How did you first get involved in boxing?

LC: I joined back in 2000 at Cabbagetown at the age of 21. At the time there weren’t as many gyms as there are now, and I was looking to compete and read about Canada’s golden boy, Shawn O’Sullivan. I wanted quality instruction so I sought out his gym and trainer, Peter Wylie.

In terms of following boxing, I’ve been watching it since I was a kid, watching HBO fight nights of the likes of Tyson, Holyfield, Jones Jr., De La Hoya amongst many others. It was the thing my friends and I got together for.

What or who first inspired you to become a coach?

LC: I’d say all the coaches I had out of Cabbagetown, Peter Wylie, Carlos Varela Sr., John Kalbhenn, Ned Simmons, but also my other martial arts Instructors. I’ve had good experiences in the learning process and always found learning and the educational process rewarding. I also teach art as part of my career, so coaching was just a natural thing to do with my boxing experience.

Tell us about your progression in the sport.

LC: I was only able to train to a competitive level for a brief period. By the time I started boxing I was 21 and already in the workforce. To be a journeymen boxer is incredibly difficult, as you can’t devote the time, energy, and rest you need. My amateur career was quite short. However, I had always trained as best as I could since then and followed it quite intensely, pros and amateur scene.

I received my NCCP Level 1 coach last year which was quite exciting and would love to continue to develop that new aspect of boxing involvement.

What/who motivates you as a coach?

LC: To be involved and to promote boxing, general fitness, and overall balance with work/life. I’m as much into boxing as I am into a lifestyle of health and fitness. These are both what I love to promote as I think it’s what really keeps life healthy and happy for people. Coaching is the way to get people to experience that when it’s done well.

What has been your biggest challenge as a coach?

LC: One thing is to keep people as committed to the training as you are. It’s a small percentage of people who will stay the long haul. As a coach you’re trying to get improvements, and that really does come with the commitment and want from the other: this is not always easy.

What is your biggest achievement in the sport?

LC: I did not have a lasting career in the sport competitively unfortunately, but coaching has been equally a gift.

What are your goals in the sport?

LC: To continue as I am doing and develop my training programs and client base. Promoting boxing, its history, is another. I think that with evolving times and the onset of other combat sports, is that boxing, pure boxing is not getting the same degree of detail as it did when I grew up with it. I’ll watch classic fights and read articles about the old time fighters of a time when it was always about boxing.

What would you like people to know about boxing and coaching?

LC: The main reason I decided to apply to this form was because of what boxing has done for me, It wasn’t about competition, it was the lessons learned.

I’ve had some pretty hard times, and there’s nothing quite like boxing to prepare you for such hardships. All the training, hard-knock rounds, questioning oneself, emotions, and more. It was like life itself as many others have said before. It was very much that for me and has in fact saved my life on many occasions. It wasn’t always about the times of defending myself from some attacker but was more about the very hard struggles life seemed to throw at me.

I was even homeless for a while, and it was my training that kept me alive and kept me grounded. One more round. Do it again. You will have the biggest obstacles out there when you have absolutely nothing, and it’s also the stuff inside you end up facing. Boxing was a life saver, all the lessons. I think coaching just helps instill those lessons into people.

What else would you like to share about yourself?

LC: I work in the film industry as a visual artist. I train and coach as often as I can.

Photo credit: Mike Swiegot