March 23, 1992, an organizational meeting was called to gauge the interest in amateur boxing in Fort Myers, Florida. The city of Fort Myers had closed the boxing program and the kids who had participated were back on the streets. There was a large turnout of kids who wanted to box, parents who wanted to help, and boxing people who wanted to get involved. The SJC Boxing Gym opened its doors to the kids of Fort Myers. They came from all over the area, about 50 kids from five different counties, to be coached by three coaches, each night. They were from the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. They trained hard together and enjoyed considerable success. Amateur shows were held every six weeks, they were televised on local cable TV. Teams from around the country would travel to Fort Myers to fight the local stars.

In two short years, the SJC Boxing Team had produced 28 state gold medalists, six regional and one national champion. Thirteen fighters had participated in the Florida State Sunshine games in 1994 with ten fighters winning gold medals, two silver medals and one a bronze medal. Eight junior fighters went to the state tournament in Tampa and seven came home with gold medals and one with a silver.

The City of Fort Myers got involved once again later that year, when SJC amateur coach Larry Willis was able to get funding from the Police Athletic League to start another boxing program. subsequently, Chief Arnold Gibbs took over the leadership of the Cape Coral Police Department and started a boxing program there. Then, former amateur fighter Marc Hager began a program in Port Charlotte. SJC Boxing was happy to have been able to fill the void in local amateur boxing but once again it was back in good hands in the area, the club turned its attention to pro boxing.

Some of the better amateur boxers from the SJC program turned pro and other pros moved to the area to begin or advance their careers under the guidance of SJC President Steven J. Canton. On October 17, 1995, SJC Boxing presented its first local pro show at the Charlotte County Memorial Auditorium, in Punta Gorda. On that show fighters from the United States, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guyana, the Bahamas, and Cuba participated. The next show saw fighters from England, Panama, Antigua, and Equador added to the lineup.

Since that time, SJC Boxing has done well. SJC promoted the first casino boxing in the State of Florida, The first broadcast of live boxing on the internet (which was seen by over 250,000 people in 15 different countries). SJC did the first pay-per-view boxing event in the Bahamas. Mary Lynn Canton became the first woman to debut as a cornerperson at Madison Square Garden, working against Arturo Gatti and Hector “Macho” Camacho, during which time she took the famous picture of Lou Duva being carried out of the ring on a stretcher in the aftermath of the Riddick Bowe vs. Andrew Golota riot fight. She also invented the SJC Ice Collar, which was marketed by Ringside Products.

SJC has had eight “minor” world champions: Freeman Barr, David Armstrong, Stacy Prestage, Ezra Sellers, Uriah Grant, Andre Purlett, Steve Frank, and Bernard Harris. Steve Canton co-hosted the nationally syndicated radio show “Smitty’s Ringside Seat,” from Las Vegas, with host James Smith, for seven years. He has been a regular writer for Boxing Update/Flash with a monthly column, “The Florida Line.” He is on the committee who votes for the International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees each year for both the “modern” and “old-timers” groups. He is an accomplished cutman, manager, and trainer, and has made countless matches all over the world. He is the webmaster of the popular web site: www.sjcboxing.com

The SJC Boxing gym is an old-fashioned type gym teaching “old school” boxing. Amateurs train side by side with the pros, under the expert eyes of John LaMarca and former amateur and pro standout Rick Folstad. Fighters still travel to the gym from all directions, many as long as an hour plus each way. The gym has catered to many world class fighters such as Freeman Barr, Uriah Grant, Alan Vester, Cesar Bazan, Saul Duran, Manuel Medina, Steve Frank, Ezra Sellers, Franco Wanyama, Raymond Joval, Peter McNeeley, Felix Camacho, to name just a few. Recently, the gym had seven fighters sparring one night, all from different countries, and two others working the bags, were both from different countries.

One of the best things about the SJC Boxing Gym is the fact that it has a serious, hard working atmosphere, where everyone wants to be the best in the world, but also wants his or her teammate to be the best in the world too. Everyone helps and encourages each other, it doesn’t matter if it’s a world class fighter or a pure beginner. Everyone who comes into the gym is amazed at the quality of the training and the “brotherhood” of all the fighters, regardless of where they originally came from.

There have been over thirty different countries represented in the gym, training on a regular basis, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Guyana, Denmark, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine, Haiti, Estonia, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Belgium, the Camaroons, Uganda, Antigua, Australia, St. Lucia, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Argentina, Ghana, Canada, Germany, Columbia and the U.S.

Anyone interested in coming to warm, sunny, and tranquil Southwest Florida, to train at the world class SJC Boxing Gym should contact: sjcboxing@hotmail.com or call (239) 275-5275.


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Category: Steve's Corner

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