Parksville pugilist has sights set on being a world champion

Trainer impressed with work ethic, determination of young teen ‘Irish’

Oakley ‘Irish’ Fitzsimmons is a diminutive young boxer who packs plenty of punch.

He is only 13 years old but he’s already impressed his trainer Richard LeStage, who feels he can be a world champion one day.

The Grade 8 Ballenas Secondary student has been boxing for two-and-a-half years but in that short time, Fitzsimmons has already shown potential that he can go far in the sport.

LeStage, who has trained local boxers such former Canadian super middleweight champion Mark Woolnough and Shane “Shotgun” Andreesen, said the first time he met Fitzsimmons, he wasn’t keen on taking him under his wing because of his age. It was Woolnough who recommended him to LeStage, who eventually took him in.

“I told his father I don’t work with children,” said LeStage. “But when I started working with him, after a while, I found out that he listens. He’s a special kid with special qualities. I believe he’s got potential to become world champion if he can stay dedicated through the teen years which are tough. It’s early days but he has passed every test that we tried him.”

LeStage said they laid out a specific training plan for Fitzsimmons which included a target of a hundred sparring matches before he would allow him to compete.

Fitzsimmons began competing last year, when he was only 12. Because of his age, tournament organizers had reservations allowing him to compete. LeStage had to convince them that he would do well. And he did.

So far, Fitzsimmons’s record is 8-0, winning every bout convincingly against older opponents, with two wins via technical knockout. He fights in the 83-pound division and LeStage said that six out of the eight fights, Fitzsimmons was awarded best fighter of the night.

At the Golden Gloves tourney, Fitzsimmons, despite being a novice boxer, took on open fighters. He also won the Emerald Gloves and was also awarded the Emerald Boy trophy for most outstanding male boxer in the tournament. He added a junior novice provincial title to his collection, stepping up to face the silver-medal winner in the open division and TKOed his opponent in under a minute.

“I haven’t seen a kid at this age, with this much experience whose as far as he is,” said LeStage. “It’s all through hard work.”

Fitzsimmons is confident he will achieve his goal. He spends hours inside the gym honing his skills and runs on weekends. He doesn’t mind the work.

“I love how much will it takes, how much time and effort it takes and the payoff is really good,” said Fitzsimmons. “It feels really good to win.”

Fitzsimmons said he still maintains a social life.

“I train at night so before that, I hang around with friends,” said Fitzsimmons. “If they ask me to hang longer, I would decline because I don’t want to miss training. I am very devoted to doing this.”

Fitzsimmons is too young to compete in the national championships and says he can’t wait to reach that point. For now, he will compete in a number of tournaments including those in the United States. LeStage said they need to bring him out of Canada to expose him to other fighters.

Fitzsimmons said he will continue to train hard. He is determined to become world champion.

“That’s the goal,” said Fitzsimmons. “That would be amazing. That’s my dream.”

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