‘I want that glory’: Whitehorse boxer fighting to bring the sport back to Yukon

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Mponda Kalunga is a fighter in each sense of the phrase.

He first fell in love with boxing when he noticed Mike Tyson knockout Francois Botha on TV at the refugee camp in Tanzania the place he grew up. 

“Seeing how this second actually made all the pieces cease … the good and the unhealthy, only for this second that … at all times caught to me,” he stated. “That’s the feeling. I want that glory.”

Kalunga’s seek for glory has been an extended one.

He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, which is why he containers below the identify The Egyptian Prince. He began boxing at age 16 after he moved to Newfoundland as a baby, and have become a pro-boxer fighting out of Toronto earlier than the pandemic hit.

For virtually two years, he has been residing and fighting out of Whitehorse, generally commuting over 5,000 kilometres simply to get to fights.

Kalunga as a younger man. (Submitted by Mponda Kalunga)

Kalunga is ranked second in his division in the nation, in accordance to Box Rec, and is on an eight-fight profitable streak. Right now, he is up for a Canadian Super Welterweight title, and if he wins it will be his first.

He’s additionally working along with his crew to set up an expert title struggle in Whitehorse. If he is profitable, it will be Yukon’s first skilled boxing match in over 100 years.

“This is the place I really feel I have to spend the remainder of my life, and I really feel like that is an introduction to the individuals,” he stated of the territory. “This is the place my coronary heart is.”

‘Very onerous to practice at a nationwide degree’

Kalunga is the first skilled boxer to struggle out of Yukon in a long time.

To correctly practice for fights, he flies down to Ontario one month upfront simply to be certain that he will get in time at a correct fitness center. He even sleeps at the fitness center, simply to save time.

“It’s numerous work. It’s tougher. But it is welcomed, so I’m not going to complain. I’m not gonna make excuses … I’m very fortunate to do that, and I’m grateful,” Kalunga stated.

He does admit it is a large problem with so few assets for the sport in the territory.

Kalunga at his Grade 6 commencement in St. John’s. (Submitted by Mponda Kalunga)

Yukon Boxing, the territory’s novice boxing group, hasn’t had an official coaching facility since Peak Fitness closed down throughout the pandemic. 

Jess Staffen, a previous president and head coach for the group, was concerned for over 30 years.

“Just logistically … we discovered that even for novice boxing it’s extremely onerous to practice at a nationwide degree in the Yukon since you want competitors and many it,” Staffen stated.

Organizing an expert boxing match

Staffen is happy about Kalunga’s efforts to bring an expert match to Yukon.

Kalunga when he left Tanzania to come to Canada. (Submitted by Mponda Kalunga)

About 10 years in the past, he stated, Yukon Boxing tried to do the similar factor, however they bumped into some limitations.

“We had been knowledgeable that would want some legislative adjustments, and the institution of a Gaming Commission in the Yukon,” he stated. “We weren’t inspired to push the occasion.”

Kalunga and his crew are developing in opposition to related challenges that finally boil down to Canada’s Criminal Code.

Section 83 says anybody who engages in a prize struggle is responsible of an offence punishable on abstract conviction.

There is an exception for boxing contests held with the permission of a fee or related physique acknowledged by the province or territory’s legislature.

But Yukon does not have a boxing fee.

Ranj Pillai, the territory’s minister of Economic Development, has been in contact with Kalunga’s crew about organizing the occasion.

He stated his division has been wanting by the laws to see what wants to be carried out to host an expert match.

“It might really be fairly a big endeavor,” he stated. “It’s based mostly on the laws that’s been in place for, , a long time.”

Pillai stated it’s too quickly to say how lengthy any legislative adjustments might take.

Kalunga’s crew is hoping to maintain the match as quickly as this spring.

History in the re-making

If they’re profitable it will be a historic occasion.

Yukon was as soon as a global hub for skilled boxing, throughout the early 1900s in Dawson. 

John Firth, a historian who wrote Yukon Sport: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, stated the Dawson City boxing membership was generally known as one in every of the greatest in the world throughout the gold rush.

“It’s the oldest organized sport in the Yukon,” stated Firth. “They had a facility that was able to seating 5,000 individuals, which in these days was fairly spectacular.”

A web page from the May 13, 1905 version of the Dawson Daily News. (Dawson City Museum)

One of the first main fights was in 1898 between former Commonwealth Champion Frank Slavin and a bartender in Dawson City named Frank Harvey.

The struggle was meant to go 18 rounds however solely lasted for six, as a result of the viewers members began fighting to the level the place the boxers turned to watch them brawl as an alternative.

Some main names got here to Dawson City to make their fighting careers.

Kalunga fights below the identify The Egyptian Prince. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Jack Twin Sullivan got here to the Klondike to struggle, leaving three months later to go on to change into the World Middleweight boxing champion.

Joe Choynski, who was later identified for beating heavyweight champion of the world Jack Johnson, additionally fought in Yukon. 

Big identify promoters labored the Klondike too One of them was Tex Rickard, who went on to construct Madison Square Garden.

Then the gold rush ended, so too did the glory days {of professional} boxing in Yukon.

Kalunga hopes that bringing a title struggle to the territory will bring individuals collectively once more to take pleasure in the sport.

“It’s like so significant for me … all the pieces … my life from the refugee camp, beginning there and coming right here,” Kalunga stated.

“Let’s make it an event. Historical. Something that Whitehorse will bear in mind.”

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