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ALMOST two years ago “CityNews” ran the inspiring story of local barrister Jack Pappas and his efforts to set up a boxing gymnasium predominantly to encourage troubled and disadvantaged youngsters to get back on track.
For many of them, the alternative was not pretty and in a few cases a one-way ticket to life’s seedier side was staring them in the face.
Despite its still fledgling status, the Fit to Fight gym in Tuggeranong is kicking goals – or packing punches – consistent with the course that Jack Pappas carefully mapped out when he and a few like-minded mates dug deep into their pockets to financially establish the venture.
Today, his Fit to Fight gym is on yet another mission; to take a squad of up to 12 fighters to Holland in February to compete in an amateur boxing tournament. With 25 potential starters, the competition at the Tuggeranong gym right now is palpable.
It’s almost unheard of for a privately operated boxing gym to mount such a campaign but Pappas has once again called in a couple of mates to help make it happen. They include former ACT heavyweight amateur boxing champion and general practitioner Dr Marco Krukerink, who’s now back in Holland.
“He’s heavily involved in boxing over there so we have a man on the ground,” Jack explains.
“He’s keen to organise the event and he’s involved in a high-level gymnasium there, so we’ll get very good competition.”
The Netherlands’ campaign sprang from a smaller exercise a couple of years ago when Jack took a team to NZ, where they won four out of the five fights on the card. Holland will be a lot tougher.
For a start, it takes money – and a substantial amount of it. To Jack Pappas, that’s just another challenge he’s prepared for.
“I’m speaking to a potential major sponsor at the moment and it looks like he’ll come on board. He owns a large construction company in the ACT,” Jack says.
“He understands first hand what boxing does for people and he’s interested in putting some money into a gym on this side of town, where it’s sorely needed.”
However, it’s not a free boarding pass for the young hopefuls.
“They’re all putting in some money each month. That money goes into a trust account for every one of them.
“If they get picked for the tour, that money goes towards the fare. If they don’t get picked, then they’ve got some enforced savings for the year and they get their money back.
“So it’s a good life lesson for those who may not make it for various reasons.”
However, there’s no shortage when it comes to training and coaching expertise. Jack has engaged Dennis Arthur as head coach, a Canberra boy who’s competed internationally as an amateur boxer.
It will be Dennis’ job to make the final squad selection and he makes no bones about what it’s going to take to board that plane to the Netherlands.
“It comes down to who wants to work the hardest. You can be the most skilled fighter in the world but if you’re not willing to train, we’re not willing to take you,” he says.
He knows the Netherlands won’t be a cakewalk and he’s making sure his trainees realise that, with a schedule that sees them training up to six days a week to reach elite fitness and skills levels.
“It will be a tough squad. One that’s dedicated and committed and 100 per cent ready.
“I’ve done a few trips like this and the only way to prepare is to leave no stone unturned.”
When Dennis Arthur hung up his gloves and took on coaching, he had his sights set high.
“I still have goals and I want to train Australian champions. I want to train fighters to go to the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games,” he says.
To Dennis, Holland is an important stepping stone to achieving those goals.