Reunion

Richard Menard, right, runs The Bear Boxing Club in Edmonton.  Menard is joined by former boxing champion Danny Duchesne, centre, and veteran Thunder Bay boxing coach Tony Pimentel.

I want every coach who reads this following letter I received to know they make a difference. A young man contacted me and asked me if I would allow him to thank his coach in my column. I agreed for a few reasons.

This young man did not have an easy life growing up in Thunder Bay. He over came many hurdles in life. He now lives in Edmonton where he works hard running a farm. He is a mentor to others. He gives back to his community through his involvement in a running club and a boxing club. He is also teaching his son, Kayden, very important life lessons.

The letter writer is Richard Menard. His coaching mentor is Thunder Bay’s own, Tony Pimentel:

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Hi my name is Richard Menard and I’m here to say thank you.

As a young man I was confronted with a lot of decisions I felt I should not of had to make as a young man. I grew up, and I was in and out of trouble a lot.

I never wanted to get in trouble, I always wanted to do good, and be good, but I always found trouble and trouble found me.

I knew I had the potential to be, and do better, so I searched for a way to focus my energy constructively.

At the time I had a friend who was dating a boxer named Chris Scott. Chris introduced me to his boxing coach at the time named Tony Pimentel. Chris Scott was one of best boxers at the time and I wanted to be just like him.

Tony allowed me to come to the gym and train with his team who consisted of five national boxing champions who later became like family to me.

Along with Tony, All these amazing athletes helped shape who I am today, and most are still my friends to this day as well. Aside from Tony, Some of these boxers were Danny Duchesne, Jason and Trevor Stewardson, and Cory Hayward,

We all travelled together, lived together, trained together, and worked together. Thank you to these folks as well.

All these amazing experiences happened because Tony was the type of coach who pushes us to be better then we were.

Tony went out of his way and made sure we worked hard, in and out of the gym. He made sure we were accountable for our actions, Tony created an environment of great athletes, and his resume speaks for itself, 5 national champions from the same city with only a population is 120,000. That’s unheard of in today’s boxing world.

Tony named his gym the Thunder Bay Amateur Boxing Club and Doggs Gym. This name meant something for us. To me it meant I had a place to train, and a place I could take my negative energy and turn it into positive energy.

It was about making a commitment to the sport, making friends, travelling all over Canada, and the United States to some of the top boxing events to battle some of the best boxers in North America and preparing some of his athletes for the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics.

These are some of the things Tony did for me, and our club.

I’ve since moved on in life, I’m a father now, a teacher and a great role model, I want to say that Tony helped me be the person I am today.

I like sharing my success stories with my students in class, also, and I like sharing my boxing stories with my son who also enjoys being a boxer and athlete.

If you didn’t know, Tony was one of the best boxing coaches around. Thank you Tony for making me a better man.

Perhaps this isn’t enough of a thank you, but I hope it’s a start in letting you know that I’ve never forgotten the memories we shared together, your knowledge of boxing in the gym, your tenacity, and your will find the best in us!

———

Ricky's son Kayden is 13 years old and in Grade 8. He is preparing for the Alberta Indigenous Games in the running event and the North American Games in 2023 for wrestling and running. If boxing is included this duo will be prepared for that, too. Richard Menard participated in 2006 and now he shares the experience with his son.

I am proud of Ricky Menard he turned his life into something wonderful. I remember him as a little scrappy kid who had more heart in the ring than most.

Tony Pimentel would like to start a club again but he needs support. If anyone is interested in helping Tony out contact him at 252-2221.

Johan Vass is a Thunder Bay-based writer. Reach her at jvass@tbaytel.net.

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