To those outside of the sport of boxing, the merger of two unlikely forces might have seemed unlikely, if not unheard of. Even within the boxing community the news came as a welcome surprise.
Today, Hardknocks Boxing Club welcomes the Cabbagetown Boxing Club into their gym, as the two have now formed a temporary partnership in order to allow Cabbagetown members, who have been gymless for months, to begin training at a boxing gym once again.
Since March, structural issues in the Cabbagetown Youth Centre forced the Cabbagetown Boxing Club out of its space. They’ve been without a formal place to train since, with COVID-19 posing further issues to indoor training.
Looking for other options, the team reached out to Hardknocks Boxing Club, located just down the street at Queen and Parliament. Founded in 2013 by Lee Baxter, Hardknocks has been home to some of the nation’s finest boxing talent, including NABA welterweight champion Samuel Vargas. Once the gym was able to reopen from COVID-19 lockdowns, former Canadian Olympic Bronze medalist Chris Johnson joined the team as the new head coach.
But despite the need to ramp up their fighters with a new head coach and training regimen, the team at Hardknocks opened the call from Cabbagetown with open arms.
“A big part of boxing is loyalty to a gym and a coach, but it’s also about a loyalty to the sport and the community. When it comes down to it, we all should be here for one other,” said Lee Baxter, “At the end of the day it is a pretty small and tight knit community in Canadian boxing. The boxing ecosystem is delicate and it’s important that we all do our part to support it and nurture young talent. Cabbagetown is a legendary program that provides a vital service to the youth and community in Toronto, and it we needed to do everything we could to make sure that legacy and that support system remained in place.”
For now training will be split amongst the two groups, with Cabbagetown taking a weekend day and two evenings during the week. The measure has been put in place to minimize contact for health and safety.
While competitions has been suspended for the remainder of 2020 by Boxing Ontario, both gyms will continue to compete under their own banners and train with their own trainers.
“When competition starts up and the bell rings, I know the Hardknocks and Cabbagetown fighters will be going at it, but that stays in the ring. At the end of the day, we’re all one big family,” said Baxter.