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Local boxer wins second Golden Glove

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Lacombe boxer William O'Keefe is a two-time Golden Glove champion. (Photo supplied)

Lacombe boxer William O'Keefe is a two-time Golden Glove champion. (Photo supplied)

Lacombe boxer William O’Keefe is now a two-time Golden Glove champion.

Late last month, he was one of more than 130 fighters from across western Canada that took to the ring for the Alberta Golden Gloves in Red Deer, and came out on top with a unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Nesterenko in the youth 75-kilogram weight class.

The win, however, was just another day at the office for 18-year-old O’Keefe.

“It was crazy, but I’ve won this already,” he said. “I had no feeling, because I’m not done. I want to go the Canada Winter Games.”

Looking back on the fight, he said it didn’t quite go as well as he would’ve liked, at least on the offensive side, but sees it as something to work on before his next match.

“I did great defensively. He didn’t really get me much, but offensively I could’ve thrown more, gotten more of my jab and left hook in,” he said. “It’s a learning curve.”

So far, he’s 5-1 in fights, only losing his first in a match he thinks he could’ve won.

While O’Keefe has watched boxing his whole life, he first got into it himself at 12 years old. After a month, he stopped to play football, hockey and other sports.

Four years later, however, he was rewatching a series of legendary bouts between Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti and found himself shadow boxing.

“Something just clicked,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get back into boxing again.”

Walking into the Red Deer Boxing Club, he described being nervous about his return, but as soon as he got into the arena and began working, that quickly faded.

“Coach said ‘I think we got ourselves a fighter’ and that really boosted my confidence. I trained so hard after that,” he said. “Getting into it was actually the easy part – staying on the right path has been the hard part.”

While some may see boxing as a more violent sport, O’Keefe says that’s not how he sees it at all. While his competitive spirit kick starts the adrenaline when he fights, he sees it as more of an art form. Growing up, he was mesmerized by the likes of Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali.

“It was poetry in motion,” he said. “It was so nice to watch. I fell in love with it and that’s why I’ve stuck with it.”

The journey hasn’t been without its setbacks. An injury took him out for about four months, but he’s made quite the comeback, winning two Golden Gloves.

Still, there’s a hunger he’s been unable to satiate.

He wants to represent the province at the Canada Winter Games, but he also wants to do much more.

“My dad always told me ‘if you’re going to do something, be the best at it,’” he said. “I don’t want to settle. want to box in the States, in Europe. I don’t just want to go to the Canada Games, I want go the Olympics. I want to do more.”

A huge part of that is training, which he’s now doing five days a week, pushing himself past his limit every time he heads into the club to avoid complacency.

While he’s got big dreams, he says he tries not to worry too much about the future, keeping his focus on the immediate step ahead, which is a fight this weekend in Stony Plain.

“I don’t want to sound overconfident or cocky, but I like to go in thinking I’m going to win. If I go in thinking I’m going to lose, I’ll lose,” he said.

“I’m going to win.” 

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