Ringside for Youth XXIV goes the distance, raising more than $3.2M over 24 years

Popular boxing benefit for Boys and Girls Club draws sold-out crowd of 1,200

It was a night full of political knockouts, but just as exciting as the Ontario election were the punches and jabs being thrown back and forth at Ringside for Youth XXIV, an annual charity boxing night held for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.

A sold-out crowd of 1,200 headed into the Shaw Centre for cocktails and dinner before cheering on amateur fighters duking it out in the ring. Several competitors were from Ottawa’s Beaver Boxing Club while others came from St. Catharines, Montreal and even Gothenburg, Sweden.

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Sabrina Holmström, from Gothenburg, Sweden, takes a hit from Marija "the Honey Badger" Curran (Beaver Boxing Club) at Ringside for Youth XXIV. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Hanging proudly in the large hall were banners with the names of all the boxing greats who have supported the fundraiser since its humble beginnings in 1995, starting with Canadian boxer George Chuvalo.  

The popular event, founded by Steve Gallant, branch manager, investment advisor and vice president with CIBC Wood Gundy, has raised more than $3.2 million, to date. Ringside was expected to net between $180,000 and $200,000 this year.

Gallant is part of a 24-member, well-oiled committee that puts on a slick show each year. The group, chaired by Jeff O'Reilly, general manager of D'Arcy McGee's Irish Pub, has been together for so long that it's now entering its second-generation of volunteers.

This year’s special boxing guest was undefeated American light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, who only announced his unexpected retirement last September. He was first introduced to boxing at the age of nine because his father wanted to toughen him up. With Virgil Hunter as his trainer, Ward went on to have an illustrious boxing career that saw him win an Olympic gold medal in 2004.

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From left, Steve Gallant hams it up with Ringside for Youth ambassador Gerry Cooney and this year's special boxing guest, Andre Ward, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre, in support of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Jeff O'Reilly with his daughter, Tegan O'Reilly, who was among the second-generation of volunteers at this year's Ringside for Youth XXIV charity boxing benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ottawa musicians Brian and Dick Cooper, from The Cooper Brothers, are long-time members of the organizing committee for Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ward was so humble and well-grounded as he spoke with celebrity guest announcer Rod Smith, who's an excellent interviewer, by the way. 

The retired athlete talked about his decision to quit boxing at age 33, while he still had “something left in the tank.” He had listened to many boxers talk a good game about their plans to hang up their gloves once they’d made their mark and had a great run. But, they didn't get out, he said.

“I care a great deal about the generation that’s coming behind me. I try and be a mentor to these guys, and I hope that one day they say, ‘I want to do it like Ward did it’. That had a lot to do with me retiring.”

As well, he followed his father's career advice to stick with a close-knit circle of friends and family. He told Ward: If you ever make it, don’t have 50 guys around you, patting you on the back and telling you how great you are.

“It was lessons like that, amongst many others, that allowed me to avoid major pitfalls that professional athletes have to deal with,” said Ward.

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Andre Ward at Ringside for Youth XXVI. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ward also talked about how he had to dumb down his boxing for his fighting role in Creed, a 2015 spin-off film and sequel to the Rocky film series (he’s starring in the upcoming Creed II, as well).

“It was extremely hard,” he said. “All the good stuff I learned – throwing tight, crispy punches – I had to forget all of it. I had to go throw wide, loopy punches to sell it. I had to learn to take a shot. I had to practise getting knocked down; I wasn’t happy about that.”

The event, presented by former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, Manulife Investments, Mark Motors of Ottawa and CIBC Wood Gundy, had dozens of other businesses also in its corner that night.

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Liza Mrak, executive vice-president of Mark Motors of Ottawa, and her brother, dealer principal Michael Mrak, of the family-owned luxury car dealership, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Among the returning celebrities were former heavyweight boxer Gerry Cooney as Ringside for Youth ambassador, Ottawa’s Derick Fage, co-host of Breakfast Television Montreal, as ring announcer and Ottawa-raised comedian Angelo Tsarouchas as emcee. The reaction was mixed when Tsarouchas announced the results of the provincial election – a Tory majority win – later that night.

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Angelo Tsarouchas at Ringside for Youth XXIV. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Derick Fage with his wife, Monika Palitza-Fage, at Ringside for Youth XXIV. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Musical guests included JW Jones while singers Rebecca Noelle and Kellylee Evans did a beautiful job belting out the national anthems. Even though Alfredsson wasn’t able to attend, his younger brother Henric Alfredsson did, and was spotted singing along to the national anthem of Sweden.

Seen was Cindy Tomlinson Keon, vice-president of Tomlinson Construction, which made a $1 million donation to the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa last year. Cody Ceci and his Ottawa Senators teammate Mark Stone attended, as did retired player Chris Phillips. Former Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell, chair of Hydro Ottawa's board of directors, was also in the crowd. The BGCO board is chaired by well-known Ottawa restaurateur and all-around nice guy Stephen Beckta

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Stephen Beckta, chair of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa board, with its executive director, Colleen Mooney, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018 Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Ryan Keon and Cindy Tomlinson Keon at Ringside for Youth XXIV with Les Rechan, president and CEO of Solace, and his wife, Meredithe Rechan, who's on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, CIBC's Russell Fisher, Ray Dubeau, Hilary Hurst and Jeff Logan at Ringside for Youth, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Kevin Yemm, vice president of land development at Richcraft Group of Companies, Howard Silver, owner of The Silver Group, Shawn Bellman, marketing manager for Richcraft, and Yemm's brother-in-law, Jeff Smith, partner/owner at Smith Bradley's Insurance, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held in support of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Joanne Kudakiewicz, wealth advisor with Yorkville Asset Management, with Lisa Langevin, a law partner at Kelly Santini, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Brad Sigouin, with RBC Wealth Management, and Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa board member Roberto Campagna, owner of Roca Homes, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ottawa Senators players Mark Stone and Cody Ceci at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ringside for Youth committee member Isabelle Perreault, president and founder of Differly, with Sandy McDonald, regional director of community affairs at Bell, Danielle Robinson, president of the Ottawa Senators Foundation, and Scott Lawrence, COO of HealthCraft Products, at Ringside for Youth XXIV. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Hydro Ottawa board chair and former mayor Jim Durrell with fellow board member Dale Craig, president of Dale Craig & Associates Limited, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Paul Brown with Chris Phillips, Dean Usher (CIBC Wood Gundy) and Jim Canning, with Accenture, at Ringside for Youth XXIV, held at the Shaw Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ottawa businessman Paul Hindo had front row seats with Ringside for Youth XXIV committee member Tony Rhodes, Coldwell Banker Rhodes and Company, at this year's charity boxing gala, held at the Shaw Centre on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca