Article by Brian Smiley via The Brantford Expositor | Published on July 15, 2020

Boxers Back at It

Nikita Abbott (left) and Keslie MacPhee train at Black Eye Boxing in Brantford. Brian Thompson / The Expositor

Brantford’s boxing clubs are ready to rumble.

After the provincial government announced the lifting of certain COVID-19 restrictions last month, Boxing Ontario and its member clubs were cleared to start returning to the ring.

The Black Eye Boxing Club on Webling Street opened July 4 and the Bell City Boxing Club on Tamara Place plans to open Monday.

“It’s been good to get back at it,” said Jackie Armour, head coach at the Black Eye club,

“It’s really worked out. We haven’t had any setbacks.”

When the Black Eye club was shut down in March, Armour took advantage by varnishing floors, repainting the bathroom and giving the building a thorough cleaning.

“After that, two weeks went by and then three weeks and you’re thinking, ‘When are we going to be able to open?’” Armour said.

In early June, Boxing Ontario got to work on a plan to re-open its clubs. Member organizations were mandated to take online seminars and come up with proposals that met protocols before getting the green light to open.

Armour said Black Eye coach Rob Rutherford ensured the club was set to reopen safely and that Boxing Ontario task force members Fred Ten Eyck and Mike Williamson were helpful.

Although clubs were told they can have nine athletes and one coach, or 10 people total, at a time in gyms, Armour said Black Eye is going with eight athletes and two coaches.

Each heavy bag in the gym is numbered one to eight and athletes are spaced six feet apart. Aside from the bag work, boxers do ab workouts and modified circuit training.

Most classes run for 45 minutes or an hour with 15 minutes in between to clean everything.

Armour said that parent volunteer Tracie Waters-MacPhee has been essential in working the door when athletes arrive and cleaning between and after classes.

As for the classes, Armour said the smaller number of athletes training each hour has its benefits.

“With just a class of eight, you can get right into technical stuff a bit more.”

Coach Bill Williams of the Bell City club said he looks forward to smaller classes.

“To be honest with you, it’s going to be a little better,” he said.

“We’ll be able to work more one-on-one with a class of five as opposed to 14 or 15. We can go over every move that they’re making and every punch that they’re throwing.”

With a smaller square footage at his club, Williams said he and coaches Jack Blasdell, Al Mackinnon, Skyler Williams will have five boxers and two coaches in the gym during each workout.

He said he expects that the club will see the return of all of its members, along with some new ones.

With smaller classes, Williams said he is preparing to add extra classes.

And he said he also hopes to continue the Parkinson’s Rock Steady Boxing program he recently started but needs to find a time slot for it.

“I’m very excited.”

Williams said being closed during the pandemic has been trying.

“The first month was a good rest for me because I was at the gym five nights a week but that wears off after a while. I’m anxious to get back. Everyone is excited to get back.”

If things go well and the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to decrease, Williams said he would like to see things open up more and maybe even stage a show this year.

“I’m just going on a wing and a prayer that maybe by Aug. 24 we can do the Friday Night Fights Under the Lights with a limited crowd,” he said of the annual show the club holds at the Knights hall on Catharine Avenue.

As for Armour, he is glad to be back in the club and so are his members.

“They’re through the roof,” he said.

Original article available here