The Beaver Boxing Club, an Ottawa institution that has been churning out champions for 70 years, had its grand reopening Tuesday night at a new location in Little Italy.
The non-profit club, which originally opened in 1943, has struggled for the past two years to find a place to call home due to conflicts with infrastructure projects such as street expansions that have pushed the club to find other venues.
But the new address at 145 Spruce Street in Little Italy is expected to become a permanent home.
To the community, the Beaver Boxing Club is more than a fight club. It's a meeting point where hard work, discipline and fitness are demanded. The goal of the club when founder Mel Swartman started it up nearly seven decades ago was to keep needy kids active and off the streets.
For Carleton University student Erica Adjei, a competitive boxer, the place has helped her build confidence.
Former students return to coach
"I feel amazing, like I was really self-conscious of my body image, but now I know I can do all the things men say they can do," she said.
The body and soul of the place is 80-year-old boxing legend Joe Sandulo. At 17, Sandulo represented Canada at the Olympic Games, and he's been coaching potential champs and kids in need of direction since 1986.
Sandulo is retiring this year, and he knows he has plenty to be proud of.
"To see individuals come up through the ranks, some of them had little problems, but turned out to be good citizens and go on to win the provincials, Canadian championships," Sandulo said. "It's an awful great feeling."
Many former students of the club have returned over the years as volunteer coaches themselves.
Two-time Canadian amateur women's boxing champ Jill Perry knows it will be tougher going the distance without Sandulo.
"If I'm half the person Joe is, I'm doing a good job," she said. "He's inspired so many of us. That's why we're all down here to help keep it going."