“I’ve been coming since day one and boy have they come a long way … big improvement.”
Sitting ringside on Saturday for Round 2 of Genesis Boxing’s series of public sparring/fundraisers as part of their build up to the Road To Glory BC Bronze Gloves slated for Oceanside Place May 28, was 84-year-old Art Senft. A boxer himself back in the day, the engaging senior was a well-known amateur boxer back in the day and competed in numerous gold glove tournaments both in B.C. and south of the border.
Bright-eyed with a quick sense of humour and obvious passion for the sport, Art has a connection to the local club, in fact a newspaper clipping of him from his days as a boxer hangs on the door leading into the ring area.
“He’s a great guy,” says Genesis’ head trainer Rick Rae. “He hobbles up to the gym and watches the boys all the time and offers them support. Walks over and talks to them about crossing there feet, comes over to me and says ‘watch him, his left hand is low,’ … he’s a good old fighter and just a pleasure to have around the club, particularly with his knowledge of old school boxing. If you want old school, that’s where you get it, from a guy like him.”
Art fought as a heavyweight from 1946-1952 and piled up an amateur record of 20-5. He defeated three Golden Gloves champions (including a knockout win over Seattle’s champ), “but I never won the championship in five tries,” he shrugged.
In 1949 Art was invited down to the Seattle Golden Gloves as a spectator and ended up finding himself unknowingly entered on the fight card. He went on to be the only B.C. fighter to make it to the finals, and the Vancouver Sun dubbed him Cinderella Boy.
It was during those days, that Art, as the story goes, used to spar with Elio Ius out of the North West Eagles Boxing Club in North Van. Rae, as the story goes, was a boy of eight when Ius took him under his wing “and turned me into a gentleman and a boxer at a very young age.”
The two were together as trainer and boxer for the next 10 years. Rae stopped boxing competitively in the late ‘70s and remained on at the club for the next 15 years helping Ius with the younger boxers.
Ius’ son, David Ius, won the BC Golden Gloves in 1994 and earned the title of Golden Boy as the tournament’s best boxer.
“And in those days that was huge,” says Rae, pointing out “pretty much every Golden Boy went on to the Olympics.”
Fast forward a year later and midway through the ‘Miami Tour’, which qualifies boxers for the Olympic Games, and David’s dream of competing for his country was derailed when he was diagnosed with MS.
According to Rae, a few days prior to being diagnosed with MS, David was picked up in a limo by legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, who was always on the lookout for promising young professional fighters, and taken to Dundee’s famous 5th Street Gym where the B.C. boy would end up sparring with an unknown up and coming Ray Leonard, “as in Sugar Ray Leonard.”
David and Senft will be ringside at the BC Bronze Gloves as honourary special guests.
“It means everything to me to have them there,” says Rae, pointing out, “David is a couple years older then me and he was my idol growing up, and with Art being so close to Elio he was able to tell me stuff about Elio that I never knew.”
As for the local crop of young boxers, Senft had good things to say.
“I would say there are five or six of them that will do very well at the Bronze Gloves.”
The Bronze Gloves, he said, “is a big deal. I hope people realize how big it is, how hard these kids work (in preparation).”
Asked if he has any advice for the fighters, and Senft said beyond the personalized pointers, “I tell them just do your best and never give up.”
As for last Saturday’s sparring/fundraiser, “It went good. There wasn’t as many people as last time, but they come and go but the donations were good,” said Rae.
The club collected eight boxes of non-perishable food items for the Salvation Army Food Bank, as well as $400 for the Local Multiple Scolerosis committee.
The club with a social conscience will donate another $200 to MS, and Bruce Brown from Save-On-Foods passed on a $100 gift certificate for the Food Bank.
There were nearly two dozen supporters watching on when The News stopped in, and the sparring serious as the young fighters took turns showing how far they’ve come in less than a year.
Round 3, the third of the ongoing seers of charity public sparring events, will be held Saturday, May 21.