Kingsway Boxing is honoured to welcome photojournalist, Acha Patandjila, who will be spending the next few months with KBC documenting the journey of our youth boxing team as they prepare for competition.

Acha Patandjila is a writer, photographer, videographer, and upcoming Humber College Graduand in the Media Communications program.

She has been given the opportunity to document the journey of the youth boxing team as they take the next step into competition. The project will show a different perspective of boxing and who boxers are; in other words, it is to show that there is much more beyond the gloves, the rings and the jabs, there are people, young people; motivated, diligent, hardworking and ready to rumble. The project is themed around community, bravery and the process of unleashing one’s inner self.

Life is a journey, for some, it’s long, for others it’s short and for me, it’s been about wandering. Born in South Africa, raised in Uganda, lived in Rwanda, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and guess who’s in Toronto? Me! My name is Acha, I’m a roaming storm, I hear, but I am not here to talk about myself, my role is to take you down this new journey to greatness by the Kingsway Boxing Club juniors and you are going to have one bumpy, fun ride!

~ Acha Patandjila

⚠️ Are you interested in joining our Youth Competitive Team? Learn more about next steps and what it takes to become a competitive boxer: Youth Talent ID & Team Tryouts

Nov. 23, 2022 | A Champion’s Mind — Fourth In A Series

If lionhearted was a person, the face would be that of 12-year-old, Neyen Pitawanakwat. From fearing being hit, bruised eyes and bigger competitors, Neyen evolves as courage itself, never allowing anything to knock down his spirits.

Neyen started at Kingsway Boxing Centre in October 2021, and right before the tournament he felt more than ready to unleash his formidable boxing skills since it is something he wants to do “forever, after everything”.

I asked Neyen a few questions about who inspires him and this is what he had to say:

“My dad inspires me. When I was younger, I was getting bullied a lot because of my hair and because I’m native, and he would help me improve on defending myself. He told me ‘You don’t have to do it’ and I told him ‘But I want to do it’. It’s something that connects me and my dad. He wasn’t a boxer, but he would do little fights.”

I admired the relationship Neyen had with his father and acknowledged the advantage of the presence of a father figure in one’s life and how boxing yet again proves not to be an instrument of anger, but rather a vital staircase to connecting individuals. When you think about it people gather from all over the world to watch just one boxing match. Listening to Neyen, I was taken back home to Kampala, Uganda. I smell the fried fish stalls along the roadside, smile at the crowds of children squeezing together to watch a small TV at a convenience store, and hear the sounds of taxi drivers yelling. Uganda is a great place and I was able to relive it through Neyen.

Relationships are the core of a community especially that of an immediate family. Neyen’s father is not the only one he speaks in awe of, he says:

“My mom motivates me more because she never wants to see me fail. If I’m working out and I’m getting too tired, taking long breaks my mom tells me to get back up, ‘doesn’t have to be fast but it needs to be strong, doesn’t need to be strong but it needs to be fast.’ She says ‘This is what you trained for; this is what you want. I know this is hard, but I don’t want to see you fail neither do you, do you want this?’ and I say ‘Yeah!’”

“My sister and her husband, who’s a boxer, help with some jabs and more power . . . I feel like my sister is also like my mom except that she’s more funny with it. My nephew and my niece too they’ll be like ‘Come on man you’ve got this you’ve got this!’. I just think of my family and who’s there with me, in the ring cheering me on. I feel like that just gets me to keep going and that’s just all I need. My family is the number one thing. By the end of the day if you’re sitting alone in a dark room who do you want right beside you? Do you want money? Do you want fame? Do you want people you don’t even know? Or do you want your family which actually loves you and cares about you. I choose family over everything.”

At 6 years old Neyen was bullied, and decided to pick up boxing to defend himself but as time went by he began to realize boxing was all about respect. “I like boxing because it’s in the ring, its better because you have respect in the ring. If you’re angry all you’re doing is just trying to hurt the person you’re not focused on your jabs. They didn’t do anything, they’re normal, they’re on your team and if they’re not on your team, they didn’t do anything. And even if they do say anything, I don’t care, because all I have is respect for you.” Neyen says.

His cultural background has contributed a great lot to Neyen’s free-spirited nature and character. His character is seen when he explains, “As a native with long hair I get called a girl a lot and people tend to say, ‘you don’t deserve this hair’. I like my hair, it’s like a power on my head. It’s awesome to be native, there’s a lot of things we do with our culture like singing and dancing. I’m also Latino, I love both my cultures. One thing I hate is when people say I’m a girl, yet I’m a guy.”

Neyens’ advice to you and I is:

“Never give up, don’t say tomorrow, say today. There’s no tomorrow, there’s today, put in the work, effort, sweat and heart. When you enter that door, there’s no tomorrow, there’s today.”

Neyen Pitawanakwat

May 02, 2022 | COMMITMENT: WHERE DOES IT GET YOU? — Third In A Series

Diego goes to the gym and practices five times a week! A very African (Nigerian) expression would be, “Nawa o!”, an expression of awe and wonder translated to, “Okay wow”.

Commitment, to me, is the hardest task in life, it involves finding contrast in consistency and growing from it. Boring?  Possibly, if you’re without vision – but it is that commitment that Diego brings to the ring.

He is like a wild beast in the ring, one of the first boxers I met. He does not need to say much, for his boxing shouts louder. Surprisingly he has only been boxing at Kingsway Boxing Club for about seven months! I kid you not, you can do something for your whole life, but if you lack the zeal to wake up every day and chase that goal, you can call it null and void. The boxers’ commitment alone doesn’t make them a magnificent boxer, it’s the supporters and society’s daily dedication to the person and the cause. We have talked about this in the previous posts and referred to it as Ubuntu, (if you have not read it before, scroll down a bit, you will find it there.)

“In every sport, I always thought I could do everything I wanted so I put my mind on boxing,” Diego says. “If you are playing basketball, you have four other teammates to rely on but if you’re boxing you hold yourself accountable.” How many times in your life do you do something and quit halfway because you feel like it is not bearing fruit? I myself have a few articles only half-written, waiting for me on my desktop. The disciplines of dedication and commitment to boxing are those we can apply to our own lives.

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

Mohammed Ali

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” That quote by Mohammed Ali, Diego lives by. He says he wants to be the best boxer of his time. This game is more about the mind and the heart. With the support of his family, Diego is able to give his sport all of his attention. This boxer is a CHAMPION – argue at your own risk.

Apr. 12, 2022 | Beauty In The Brave — Second In A Series

It was a cozy Thursday evening, the sun emerged as the darkness tried to fill the bright city. Julia Rosanna was feeling well again after defeating COVID, it was going to be an interesting endeavour. Would she make it through though?

Julia joined the Club back in October 2019, since then she trains as a junior boxer every Thursday and Saturday and for her, as much as this is her last year as a junior boxer, the experience has been remarkably life changing. Brave is a word far from her vocabulary, it does not seem to be a word she lives by which I found quite intriguing. 

Having been told by her doctor that she exhibits some characteristics of ADHD, evidenced by her level of coordination, Julia was always the last to be picked for any sports-related activities. For many, this would be a reason to be discouraged but for this girl, it was every reason to try as much as she could until she was chosen. Kingsway Boxing Club opened that door and that is where her story matured.

It took twice as much effort for her to succeed in boxing. On Saturdays, she stayed a little while longer after practice to practice more and more, and one time her efforts were recognized by Phil, a trainer and boxer at the Club who complimented her saying she was getting better, to her, this was a huge moment.

In this day and age equity does not find us where we go, we find equity and make equity amount to our standards. From this girl, it is through hard work, perseverance, and a paradigm shift of one’s perspective towards life. “It’s all mental,” she says, “everything that you feel and everything that you see is all mental, it’s entirely surreal so if you could change your mind, you could change not the world in a sense but definitely how you respond to the world.”

“Everything that you feel and everything that you see is all mental, it’s entirely surreal so if you could change your mind, you could change not the world in a sense but definitely how you respond to the world.”

Julia Howe

The question: Was she going to make it through the season is answered – Julia is a fighter. How far she can go? The limit is not the sky, nor will she stop at the stars –  because she is VALOROUS in every letter.

Apr. 1, 2022 | Where It Started — First In A Series

It was a warm Friday morning, Spring was calling, and it was PIZZA DAY at Kingsway Boxing Club to make it better; That was the last day of Fight Camp. The one-week camp was coming to an end, and it was going to end in great style and action with a lot of sparring. What in the world is sparring?!

Matias systematically wraps his wrist with a red, long wrap as Joey in the corner does the same with a black one, and Diego, well, he has a different wrapping style where he first layers the wrap on his knuckles and I think what on earth is he doing, whether it is for the aesthetics, or the weights, don’t boxers wear boxing gloves when boxing? A Hand wrap is a long piece of cloth with such primary value to the boxer; to avoid hand injuries and provide support to their wrists. Before the conditioning, before sparring, this is where it starts and while they are at it, all you can hear are chatters, and little waves of laughter, others helping those who find it difficult to wrap, and it takes me back home, we called that togetherness – “Ubuntu”.

A hand wrap is a long piece of cloth with such primary value to the boxer; to avoid hand injuries and provide support to their wrists.

Ubuntu is the belief in existing because of the existence of others. In other words, to become a person, a boxer, you will need other boxers, referees, fans, supporters, and an endless list of a community. In the process, I realized there was more to boxing than throwing fists in oversized gloves rather it was a moment to unite in one accord, a moment to release your inner solidity and brain brawn because you need your mind just as much as the rest of your body on this journey, something like dancing but it is different.

Ubuntu is the belief in existing because of the existence of others. In other words, to become a person, a boxer, you will need other boxers, referees, fans, supporters, and an endless list of a community.

After a few sessions of jumping, punching bags, throwing huge balls around, memorizing tolerance, and loud hushes, was the much more exciting bit in the ring! “Jelo”, who is not called Jello, a boxer at the Kingsway Boxing Club held intimidating features and posture, his punches looked like they would throw you out the ring at one go, yes, he was one of the people the junior boxers were going to spar with, and you do not think that is brave? I did not see myself in that ring in a thousand years let alone with professionals, yet these junior boxers seemed more than ready to jab and cross these fighters. The girl’s extraordinary performance reminded me of a speech by Chimamanda Adichie where she said, “Never ever accept ‘because you are a woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything,” it was evident as they were in the ring that their gender was never going to be an excuse for anything, we love to see it! 

The brave boxers were awarded certificates of participation to sum up their camp session. I used to think like I know many others do think as well, that boxing is violent, I was contradicted that day, there had to be a much greater reason as to why everyone was there. This is life for many children and teenagers on the road to the competition. They’re here to seek, heal, grow, box, and learn, but mainly to defeat because “Defeat is not an Option”. This is where it all begins.

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