The main event was a slugfest, the show was entertaining and the crowd was boisterous from the first bout to the last.
Nelson, it turns out, likes a good fight.
The Nelson Boxing Club’s Fight Night Fundraiser was knockout Saturday night at the Nelson District Rod and Gun Club. The 12-bout card, which was held to help send local boxers to the provincial Golden Gloves event next month in Quesnel, was not only a sellout but a much-needed triumph for a club that’s struggled to stay open.
“It was really cool just to see the support,” said club co-owner and coach Jesse Pineiro, who estimated 200 people showed up for the event. “I got a little emotional about it actually. It was just so cool in my hometown to see this. It’s been a long time.”
It helped that the boxing was riveting to watch. Quesnel’s Olin Lee defeated Spokane’s Israel Alvarez by decision in the main event, a 68-kilograms, youth-open fight that saw both fighters trading punches from the bell.
There was little between the two. Alvarez appeared to tag Lee several times early on but to no effect. Lee changed the momentum in the second round, highlighted by an uppercut that connected on Alvarez’s chin. But the American threw a right cross that landed on Lee just as the round ended.
A two-punch combo by Alvarez put Lee on the ropes in the third, but Lee countered with his own combo as the pair tried in vain to find an opening before the fight’s end.
Lee said he was happy to gain a little revenge after losing a decision to Alvarez last year.
“He throws lots of explosive power, really fast explosive punches off my jabs,” said Lee. “I was kind of expecting that coming because I have a little bit of reach on him and I’ve seen him fight already once.”
There were no duds on the card, but two fights in particular stood out.
Nelson’s Bohdi Cartland and Cranbrook’s Nike Blackmore were supposed to just be fighting an exhibition, but no one appeared to tell either of the fighters. The pair came out brawling and had to be separated in the second round by the ref, who asked that the aggression be toned down.
The message didn’t stick, and the fight was called after less than two rounds following a right jab by Blackmore that staggered Cartland.
Cartland was all smiles after the fight, and said he only regretted not being able to finish the match.
“I felt nervous but I felt really good,” said Cartland. “It was all love. I’m in there and [we’re] going for the exact same thing, we’re the exact same level, no fights, either of us. [We] went in there, he met me halfway, and he gave me good punches and I gave him some good punches.”
The other highlight bout featured the evening’s only knockdown.
Calgary’s Mahmoud Ajaj earned a unanimous decision against Quesnel’s Dayton Swaan in a bloody affair that had the crowd howling for more.
The tone was set moments after the opening bell, with Ajaj snapping Swaan’s head back on just the second punch of the fight with a right jab to the forehead. But that didn’t deter Swaan, who stalked Ajaj around the ring.
That strategy didn’t work in Swaan’s favour. In the second round his face was as red as his shorts as Ajaj continued to connect on jabs to Swaan’s face. There was little doubt about the judge’s decision in the third after a left cross from Ajaj put Swaan on the ground.
Nelson Boxing Club didn’t finish the night with a victory to call its own. The club’s Toby Carroll had his fight against Kelowna’s Clive Fagan stopped in the second round, while Nelson’s Jeff Emmett engaged in an exhibition against Quesnel’s Shawn Archer after Emmett’s originally scheduled opponent was turned back at the border.
Earlier, Nelson’s Elias Martinez lost a unanimous decision in the junior-B novice category against Calgary’s Eric Whitecap. Martinez’s brother Riel, competing in just his second fight at 35 kg, looked like a champ in his exhibition against Cranbrook’s Dylan Muhlig.
Results didn’t matter much to Pineiro, who was beaming with pride about his fighters after the event.
“We’re building it. Everybody’s putting so much work in the gym and I notice the difference lately. In the gym it’s like a team, it’s like they’re there, it’s like they belong there,” he said.
In other bouts, Salmon Arm’s Dom Borbosa defeated Benito Ward by decision; Emmet Emblau of Quesnel and Cranbrook’s Aiden Gareau engaged in a 27-kg exhibition; Kelowna’s Payson White and Cranbrook’s Charlie Nelson embraced after an exhibition; Calgary’s Tristan Ewanin defeated Cranbrook’s Ty Kolbeck by unanimous decision; and Quesnel’s Nick Kwiakowski earned a split-decision victory against Cranbrook’s Payton Muhlig.
The biggest victory of the night, however, may not have been won in the ring.
The Nelson Boxing Club, which had been asked to relocate from its Baker Street location by the end of the month, will have a home of its own in September when it takes over the building currently occupied by the Nelson Animal Hospital on Ymir Road.
Cartland said he hopes the event and the new home guarantee a future for boxing in Nelson.
“Everyone’s going to know that it exists now,” he said. “People come out, they see that, they’re going to want to put their kids in there because they see it’s not just thugs and brawling and street fighting. They’re going to see that it’s a sport and this town’s opinion on it will hopefully change. Because it needs to.”
(CORRECTION: Mahmoud Ajaj’s name was incorrectly spelt in an earlier version of this story.)