By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
For a point of context, the last time a professional boxer landed a punch in Oshawa, man had yet to land on the moon.
It’s been almost 50 years since the last pro boxing card was held in the city on March 4, 1969, but the sport will make its return next month.
Classic Boxing Company is promoting a pro-am card at the Children’s Arena on Sept. 22.
Oshawa’s Motor City Boxing Club will also play a heavy role in the event.
Two of the club’s members, Evan Gillard and Thad Ridsill, will be making their professional debuts that night.
Gillard, a 23-year-old super flyweight will face off against Nestor Martinez Vazquez, who sports a 2-2 record, while Ridsill, who will turn 27 years old the night of the fight, will battle Waseem El Sinawi.
In a twist of fate, Gillard was supposed to make his debut in Peterborough a few months ago, but, an outdated medical form forced his pullout.
He now gets to make his debut in his hometown.
The evening is one Don Nelson, founder and coach at the Motor City Boxing Club has been waiting to see for a long, long time.
He has trained hundreds of boxers through their amateur careers, but unfortunately “always had to see them go fight somewhere else” when turning pro.
In the past, Nelson pondered the thought of promoting a pro card on his own but admits he didn’t feel he had the expertise to do so.
Since establishing the club 25 years ago, other promoters have considered Oshawa, but it never came to fruition.
“Everyone I talked to, they’d want to go to the Tribute Communities Centre (formerly the Generals Motors Centre), and the cost was basically prohibitive,” he says. “They didn’t want to bother with smaller venues.”
But there were other factors that kept the sport from returning to Oshawa for such a lengthy time.
“In my lifetime, the biggest obstacle in Ontario was the Ontario Athletic Commission. They were very rigid in their licensing, and a lot of people didn’t want to try,” he recalls.
Nelson says there was a time when there were only “a handful” of successful boxing promoters in the province.
“Back even 10 years ago, there were only three to six. But pro boxing is really going through a renaissance,” he says. “There are almost a dozen professional promoters now.”
Boxing is still highly regulated, but Nelson says the biggest change is the commission is now a willing partner instead of a body “just there to limit the amount of pro boxing.”
“The rules are very strict. But before the commission did not help anybody in meeting those rules, they’ll help you now,” he adds.
Nelson says he wants September’s event to be a showcase of local boxing talent.
“We are bringing in fighters from other clubs. It’s kind of Durham versus the rest of southwestern Ontario,” he says.
The card will feature a mix of amateur and professional fights.
Habib Ibrahim, one of Motor City’s highly touted fighters, will be in action.
“He’s 17-2 as an amateur. About three-quarters of those wins are by knockout,” Nelson says.
Ibrahim will be facing Niagara Falls fighter Antonio Scaringi, who was trained by former pro William “Billy The Kid” Irwin.
“This is going to be a tough fight,” Nelson says.
The main event of the evening will be a welterweight battle between Jessie Wilcox (10-0-2) and Juan Manuel Mares (20-15).
Nelson is hopeful this will open the door for more fighters in Oshawa.
“Our club is a big part of this, we’re helping the promoter with the logistics. We’re really happy to be involved with all of that. It’s an incubation experience for all of us,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to get to the Tribute Centre, and have a larger crowd.”
For tickets or more information, contact the Motor City Boxing Club at email@example.com. Tickets can also be purchased from Gillard (289-404-8712) or Ridsill (905-431-3034).