Boxing is looking to make a comeback on the Island with a series of amateur bouts scheduled for May 28 in Esquimalt at the “Back on Track” event.
Jason Heit started Championship Promotions, the company putting on the event, in the hopes of hosting more local boxing matches, which have been scarce over the past two years, especially on Vancouver Island.
“On the Island, it’s hard to get these guys the experience that they need, because they have to travel and unfortunately with the travel in Canada logistically, especially being on the Island, expenses add up. It’s difficult to get as many fights as we need to. When we look at some of the places where we’ve gone back east and fought at nationals or Olympic qualifiers, sometimes those guys have won 200 fights and our guys have 20.”
Heit trains several of the athletes at the Island MMA Training Centre who will be competing on May 28 and was himself a professional boxer. He moved to Los Angeles to fight after he’d had a successful amateur boxing career in Canada, competing for his country at the Pan Am Games.
He said he’s seen athletes get frustrated over the past couple of years, with events largely cancelled, and the few fights some of his higher-level trainees had arranged often fall through. One of those is Brandon Colantonio, 26, who has won a national silver medal but hasn’t fought in over two years with fights falling through. That’s left Colantonio spending countless training sessions in the gym at Island MMA Training Centre on Fisgard Street, where he’s been coming since he was 14.
“It’s just more mental than anything – just keeping disciplined… maintaining my fitness and mental health really. Training helps with that.”
Colantonio is at a similar stage of his career to where Heit was around 25 years ago. He’s looking to go professional, potentially within a matter of weeks, ideally, after the event in Esquimalt, says Colantonio. Heit said Colantonio has the skills and a good amateur record, but that finding professional events in western Canada to compete in can be challenging.
“When you’re living here, it’s not easy to do, it’s not really the ideal place to be a pro boxer. Unless we can have local events coming here, which ideally is what we’re doing,” said Heit. “Ideally, you get enough support through the hometown crowd here. We start doing pro events and that helps the guys that want to go on to that level launch.”
Colantonio is one of a selection of homegrown athletes, some as young as 15, who will be competing at the event in Esquimalt.