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Boxers step into the ring for charity fundraiser
After the dust settled, Steve Mercandelli stood victorious with the Charity Boxing Challenge championship belt around his waist after taking on Kenny Bridge at the first annual instalment of the event on Saturday night.
In front of a packed house at the Eagles Hall, the Mercandelli-Bridge bout capped off a raucous evening of fights inside the boxing ring that ended up raising roughly $23,000 for families and individuals in the community.
Organized by the Cranbrook Eagles Boxing Club, with volunteer coach Tom White taking point, the funds raised came from live auctions on items donated from local businesses in between bouts.
"I think it went extremely well," said White. "I am just blown away at how people opened their wallets and came out, and the volunteers and business owners, the general public—everybody. It was just a huge success.
"…Everyone involved in the whole entire thing—I think some people thought it was going to be a joke, but they truly did try their hardest. Some people really went all out and it was going to be a war in there, and some others had some fun."
Four other fights and a kyokushin demonstration by John Darula with Rocky Mountain Kyokushin Karate occupied the ring before the headline bout between Mercandelli and Bridge.
Kicking off the night was a showcase of some of the young talent with the Eagles Boxing Club, as youths that included Dylan Clark and Gage Duthie stepped into the ring to demonstrate their skills.
Darula broke some boards in the kyokushin demonstration, challenging anyone from the crowd to come up and give it a go, and one audience member obliged, successfully snapping three stacked pieces.
After a brief kyokushin sparring demonstration, the boxing bouts began in earnest, starting with Randy 'The Moose' Rothwell and Josh Kapitaniuk.
The two set the tone for the night, going at each other hard right from the get-go, and didn't seem to want to separate when the bell tolled at the end of the rounds.
After three rounds, Kapitaniuk stood the winner as decided by the judging crew.
Ralph Martini and Troy Adams followed up with a great bout, that ended with Martini's hand raised in the air.
In the only female matchup of the night, Brandi Archibald and Pamela Ryan took to the ring for three rounds and ended with a tie. White took notice and is hoping to get them back into another bout at next year's charity boxing challenge to decide a clear-cut winner.
Rolling through the crowd in a wheelchair, Jack Chisholm stepped over the ropes and into the ring against Chase Thielen, demonstrating that experience can trump youth, especially with the help of some oxygen in between rounds.
"Jack Chisholm, 61 years old, jumping in there, I don't think Chase is 30 years old yet," said White. "He took a little bit of a licking, but you know what—there's not too many guys in their sixties who would jump in there with a young kid and do it.
"But Jack has special powers with his moustache or something, I don't know what it is."
For the finale and the headlining event, both Mercandelli and Bridge made notable entrances. Mercandelli strode through the room with a British flag tied around his neck for a cape, while Bridge made the walk with a horned Viking helmet and fur pelt draped across his shoulders.
Officiating the clash between the two was Mickey Sims, a former Cranbrook Eagles Boxing Club coach who is currently the president of Boxing B.C. and a two-time world ringside champion.
"We needed him to be the special referee because I said, 'Mick, I don't want to put just anybody in between Ken Bridge and Steve Mercandelli,'" said White.
While they put on a show making their way through the ropes, it was all seriousness inside the ring. From a technical boxing standpoint, Mercandelli held the edge, but Bridge wasn't about to be pushed around, and managed to force his opponent through the ropes a few times.
Bridge seemed to nail the technique on throwing opponents from the ring while training at the Eagles boxing club, according to White.
"I think it's his big heart, he doesn't want to hurt anyone with his fists, so he'd rather just toss them out of his way," White said.
In between rounds, Bridge took a couple hits from the oxygen tank to keep himself going. However, in the end, it was Mercandelli who took the title after the bell rang and the judges rendered their decision.
"I wasn't expecting the oxygen and I wasn't expecting the neck hold, but I was expecting a rough fight for sure," said Mercandelli, after stepping out of the ring.
"…I don't think he hit me, did he? I'm not sure, I think he might have hit me a couple times, but there wasn't much going on there, that's for sure."
Mercandelli plans to keep training with the club and knows he will have to defend his title in the future, which could come as early as next year.
With the first Charity Boxing Challenge in the books, White is already planning for the next one.
"I've issued a challenge to Kenny Bridge, because he didn't do a lot of fighting—he did more wrestling. Me being just over 100 pounds and him being just under 300 pounds, I've offered to fight him next year," said White.
"And he's thinking about it."
The trick will be finding and matching up the right people against each other, as more people have contacted White about fighting in future events.
Though the goal was to raise money for deserving causes in the community, White also wanted to raise the profile of the Eagles Boxing Club, which has done nothing but grow for the last dozen years.
Currently, the boxing club, a non-profit organization boasts 68 members and has a dedicated crew of volunteer coaches—including White—who put in a lot of hard work and time away from families to keep the operation running.