Quesnel’s 2 Rivers Boxing Club has won yet another accolade – it has just been inducted into the B.C. Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame.
The club also celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Wally Doern, who started the club in 1998, says he was happy and surprised when he heard the club had been inducted.
“We have had many great boxers come through the ranks. We’ve always had a large membership and portrayed good sportsmanship, and we’ve put on several shows here,” says Doern.
Brian Zelley, one of the founders of the B.C. Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame, says he has been a supporter of 2 Rivers since its inception.
“They are truly a positive force in the sport of amateur boxing, with the coaches and boxers always a first-class act.”
Doern has coached a handful of boxers up to the provincial and national level, including Olin Lee and Todd Berg, and the club was featured in a Global TV documentary, “Spirit of the Games” in 2002.
Doern was himself inducted into the B.C. Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.
He still trains today. He says he trains with a masters boxing match in mind – whether or not he ever does it.
“I’ve never really stopped boxing. My last match was when I was 70 – I’m 72 now. I keep myself in shape at that level just in case the opportunity arises.”
Doern has boxed since he was about 12, getting his start in Hope, B.C., and says he was told at a young age that he would make a great coach.
“My coach in Hope used to tell me, ‘Someday you are going to be a good coach because you’ve got lots of patience and you can interact with people.’ He told me to start a club when I’m older because I had what it takes.
“I never thought too much of it, but as I got older I remembered that, and here I am.”
He moved to Quesnel in his early 20s and tried to start a club, but says he wasn’t in the right space to make it work.
“I had a young family and was working swing shift at Weldwood Plywood Plant, and I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t old enough and wise enough yet, so it fell through after about a year.”
Doern then relocated to Nazko, where he opened a club in the early Nineties.
“Some of the diehard athletes would drive all the way from Quesnel to Nazko to train with me,” he says.
When he moved back to Quesnel in 1998, he knew he could make a club work.
“I opened the club, and we never looked back.”
20 years of memories
The walls of the 2 Rivers Boxing Club, located in West Park Mall, are lined with photographs, newspaper clippings and trophies, accumulating 20 years of memorabilia.
But many of the club’s best moments are stored in Doern’s mind.
There was Todd Berg’s attendance at junior nationals in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 2002, where Berg won bronze. Doern attended with the young boxer, coaching him and other boxers on the provincial team throughout the event.
Other highlights for Doern were travelling to Quebec City in 2015, this time with boxer Olin Lee, as well as taking 12 boxers to the Bronze Gloves in Edmonton another year.
Yet other moments were memorable for sheer comedic value.
“I remember one year, I had an old van and we were going to a bout in Vancouver.
I had a van full of boxers and the windshield wipers quit,” Doern remembers.
Doern needed to find a solution, to get the boxers to the match on time.
“I got the boys to take their shoelaces off their boxing boots. We tied one to one wiper, and one to the other, and then the boys sat on either side of the windshield and pulled the wipers this way and that way through the windows.
“That’s how we made it to the venue,” he explains, laughing.
This year, the club has 40 members so far, and three coaches alongside Doern: James Mott, Evan Peever and Cameron Tetrault.
They coach a range of ages, and Doern says the club’s demographic has definitely been getting younger.
“There are times when it feels like Kindergarten Cop, with me and all these young kids,” he jokes.
“When I started, just the kids would come, but now the parents are standing beside their children doing the exercises, so that’s different. There’s more parental involvement, which is great,” he comments.
Doern says he and his coaches are always working towards having 2 Rivers boxers get to the national level.
“Some of our younger boxers have some really good prospects. For a few of them, the only thing that’s holding them back from nationals right now is their age. In two years they’ll be heading there too,” he says with conviction.
Olin Lee, who attended nationals in 2015, is back at the club this year, training for provincials in February. Doern hopes he’ll go all the way to nationals again.
2 Rivers will host its Rumble 24 on Apr. 7, and some members may travel to bouts before then.
And Doern says the club is always open to new members.
“I have three coaches for that reason. We keep everybody busy.”
Marc Valois, a fellow Quesnel boxer who owned a club here in the Seventies and Eighties, and who now owns Valois Kung-Fu, says Doern is a great coach, and the club deserves its latest honour.
“Wally is really helping the local community.”