Submitted by Shawn McWilliams
I’ve been doing boxing interviews for somewhere around the 10 year mark now for various websites and papers and I do it for my love of the game and the bravery of its competitors. I have conducted interviews at every level imaginable from 10 year old novice boxers all the way up to and including the former IBF World Champion Steve Molitor.
It’s with no favouritism that I say Kingsley Alexander is one if the most intelligent, articulate and well spoken boxers I have put pen to paper with in all my time as a writer. This young man is as good an ambassador for our sport, not just here in Ontario but IMHO Canada for that matter that I hope the right people take good notice.
1. Describe what influenced you to become a boxer, how long have you been boxing and with whom, and tell us about your accomplishments.
I first started boxing 7 years ago. I was a young AAA hockey player just stepping into high school with a lot of natural ability on the ice. I first started training with Paul at Bloor St. Boxing who said I was a natural on the first day. I was trying it out more for the workout to be in better shape for on the ice and it was much more affordable for my dad than most other cross-training. That lasted a few weeks.
A few months later another player on my team suggested that I meet with Chris Johnson, a 1992 Olympic medalist for Canada who had now turned boxing coach, so I decided to try boxing again for the same reason. Chris had a more attractive approach to the sport for me in his teaching style. When he, as a former Olympian, told me at age 14 that I had the potential to make the Olympics and that he would coach and guide me there, something sparked. The thought of being the best in boxing was nothing like being the best in hockey to me. As a AAA player of 5 years at the time, I was an above-average player on a well-above-average playing field. I blended in and had to put up with literally being pushed to the back the back of the bench from coaches for simply not playing a specific role in the 30seconds I was on the ice.
In boxing, from bell to bell, I was center stage. I could be myself, express my emotions through my performance. No role was my role and no move was a wrong move unless it got me hit. In my mind it was simple; I felt boxing was art and I was an artist. That’s what initially influenced and sold me on the decision to begin boxing and pursue world-class medals.
Over the years I’ve achieved 50+ gold & silver medals/trophies from competitions in my 70 fights of competition. 4 national-level medals. 1 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze. I was also an ambassador for Team Ontario at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.
2. How has training been and what’s involved in your preparation?
Training is great. I’m in the gym just about every day and staying progressive in working with both my trainers. My coach is known locally for cornering some of the best boxers Canada has to offer and he’s given me a lot of skills and experience from his international experience over the time we’ve worked together. I also have my strength & conditioning trainer, Steve Hayden, who helps me get myself into great shape and stay that way throughout the year. For me personally, physical training sucks but it’s definitely the easiest. At the national level and above, being in shape is crucial but everyone’s in great shape. What really shows is who’s been studying when they can break down their opponents on command. I’ve been feeling the strongest and most confident this year in 2014 because I’ve dedicated a lot of my focus to strengthening my mental game while maintaining my physical. With 2 provincial & 2 national-level medals in a span of 6 months, after having only 1 the year prior, I would say it’s definitely paying off.
I was lucky enough to connect with a boxing trainer in Ghana, Africa while my dad & I were out there for a month building a house for our family. I met with coach Theo Edwin who agreed to allow me to spar and train with his boxers, one of which participated in the Beijing Olympics and another was a pro-boxer in the U.S. It was a great experience, and seeing how these fighters literally had nothing but love for the sport inspired me to come back home to Canada and do better for myself between the ropes. Needless to say I made some friends and my boxing equipment bag was just about empty before I left the gym for the last time from giving basic training needs to the gym. It was a refreshing trip that changed me mentally and affects the way I train today.
3. What are your thoughts on boxing without headgear ?
Ever since beginning amateur boxing, I’ve always waited for the day that I’d fight without headgear, so taking them off was cool and exciting for me. I believe the decision to remove the headgear in amateur boxing definitely has its pros and cons but at the end of the day it’s a progression for the sport. It forces boxers to mature in areas where most have been lazy, like defensive awareness, catching punches effectively, and developing evasive footwork. Without the headgear these skills are much more necessary to develop. A lot of fighters will pick up a couple scars around the eyebrows from head-butts, but everyone will get a little better. At the end of the day I trust and stand behind the official decision of Boxing Canada, and Boxing Ontario to follow AIBA’s direction on the new rule. They keep the boxers registered under them eligible to compete in international tournaments like the Commonwealth, Pan Ams, and Olympic Games. Sometimes we just have to roll with the punches.
4. Explain how you have been volunteering your time with Boxing Ontario?
I’ve been volunteering with Boxing Ontario however I can. Just this weekend I volunteered to help out at the Ontario Bronze Gloves for the novice class boxers. A week or so ago, I participated in Humber College’s Pan Am promotional day and I taught people boxing alongside a handful of other volunteers for hours. I had the honor of teaching Mr.Saad Rafi a few moves. He’s the official CEO of the 2015 Pan Am Games that I’m currently aspiring to join. The biggest thing I’d really like to start helping with is the youths; those my age right down to the youngest boxers in Ontario. I’ve recently put myself in position to be a main coordinator in planning the Ontario Junior/Youth Team’s training camps and I plan to help teach them what I didn’t learn at that stage in my career; more about the culture of the sport, how to conduct themselves and build as a team and community as opposed to only developing individually.
I work with kids both average and autistic on a weekly basis in a class-setting, not only teaching boxing skills, but life-values associated with boxing. Being confident in yourself and your abilities to accomplish goals is an example. I feel my experience will serve me well to do the boys and girls some justice in that aspect and give them an opportunity to look at boxing from a different angle. All coaches can get a fighter to do drills and hand-pads, but to teach a slightly broader level of thinking could be a great addition to a program
5.What’s in the immediate future for you?
In the immediate future for me, it’s quite simple. I see nothing but growth and success. To me it doesn’t matter in what form it happens but I definitely have a few things that I’m hoping will happen for me. Being chosen for Canada to represent at the 2015 Pan Am Games right here in Toronto is definitely at the top of the list. It would be a dream come true to represent all the people that have helped me get to where I am, and aside from what it would do for my career, I would be honored to show my skills and bring some international respect to Canada in the 75kg division. I feel I’d be a great candidate. If that doesn’t happen for me then I will definitely continue fighting locally and gaining that valuable experience until I get the opportunity to begin the journey to qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games. I plan on not waiting for opportunities but creating my own. I plan to do that by first going to Cuba in the New Year to train with boxers and coaches from a legendary competitor in international amateur boxing.
6. What is the most rewarding quality about the game?
I think the most rewarding part of the game for me is that I’ve been all over my country and parts of other countries because of amateur boxing. I’ve met some of the greatest and most influential figures in my life today because of amateur boxing. I’ve also seen the most money ever in my bank account at one time because of Quest For Gold funding given to me to help support my amateur boxing career.
On top of that I’m more than happy to be able to give back to my community with what I’ve learned so far in the sport and life. Nothing else, for me, quite measures up to that feeling and those facts at the same time.
7. Favorite boxer(s)?
I have a lot of respect for, and like watching, all the legends like the Sugar Rays, Tyson, Ali, Frazier, Whitaker, but my favorite fighter is Emmanuel Augustus…..simply because he was my favorite performer. I even have a few moves of my own that I thought of with the mentality I assume Augustus had when he would fight. I definitely don’t think he was the best boxer technically, but he made crowds go crazy with his performances and he fought the best of the best, never backing down. I know he also liked influencing kids positively as well. I have nothing but respect for him, and can watch him fight any time.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
10 years down the road I see myself without much worry that the every-day citizen has. I expect to be well established into my career and definitely nearing retirement from professional boxing depending on my career accomplishments. I see myself using my talents, abilities, and personality, to find other avenues of revenue that are consistent and help allow me to eliminate financial struggle for my family & I. I also definitely have a few ideas for investing and starting an organization and charity to help continue developing my community or the boxing community here in Ontario, or on a bigger scale.
Regardless, I’m getting better at everything I do daily and I’m ready for whatever life brings next. I’m living a life that I chose for myself and that I love. I know already that when the day comes where there won’t be a tomorrow for me, I’d be pretty damn happy that I was at the gym yesterday. Whether as a trainer, just working myself out, cleaning the place out or whatever it was that I was there for. That is the effect that boxing leaves on my life.
9. Give us some of your most memorable moments.
My most memorable and cherished moments since beginning boxing are mostly through the selfless acts I didn’t expect. Like when my boxing team’s manager/ assistant coach at the time, Shawn McWilliams gave me my first cell-phone in high-school simply because I didn’t have one. This was a huge deal for me at the time.
Natalie Brown a female pro-boxer, who taught me how to study boxing game-plans, gave me some experience on cleaning my technique & pointed me in the right direction in asking the queen to my school prom.
Jerome Coffee a former pro-boxer from Nashville, Tennessee who was willing to train and teach me all that he learned in his own home with 5 small beautiful children upstairs that all adored his attention and would sometimes watch us train.
One of my biggest blessings so far was Natalie introducing me to Andrea Savard. Andrea and her husband are co-owners of a well-established Crossfit and boxing gym, Firepower, which is partnered with Reebok. Andrea, over the few short years that I have known her, has been so giving. She trained me for a short time herself for free when I didn’t have a coach, even though she was busy with daily work. She gave me a part-time job teaching boxing at her gym; a job that I still have today and have expanded in. It’s left me with much more time to train in my day, a place to train whenever I need to, and it’s let me live more comfortably. There are a lot of people for me to thank and many more that I remember that have played a part in my development. I believe that being successful in what I chose to do moving forward will be the best ‘thank you’ I can give.
Thanks for your time
Your very welcome
Shawn McWilliams is a freelance boxing writer based out of Orangeville, who submits regular articles to help promote Boxing Ontario and our members. If you have an idea for a story please contact Shawn at [email protected]