Fighting Island Boxing Club

Local boxer heading to Scotland to compete for his country



By Ron Giofu


A fighter out of Amherstburg’s Fighting Island Boxing Club is heading to Scotland next month to compete.

Brandon French, known around the Victoria St. S. gym as “Axel,” will be part of a team of fighters heading to Edinburgh, Scotland from March 27-April 2. Fighting Island Boxing Club (FIBC) owner/coach Joe LeBlanc said both he and his 13-year-old boxer will be making the trip along with other clubs from around Ontario from such places as Toronto, Sarnia and St. Catharines.

LeBlanc said everyone that is picked to go is either a provincial champion or in the mix to become one soon. He believes they will be seeing the best fighters Scotland has to offer.

The main show is March 30 at the Lady Octavia Sports Centre in Edinburgh and hosted by the Greenock Boxing Club. The event is billed as “Scotland vs. Canada.” LeBlanc said he believes Brandon will get another fight in addition to that major show.

This isn’t the first fighter that LeBlanc has sent overseas for a major show. There have been FIBC fighters competing at shows in other countries for many years.

“You have to gain respect and everyone has to know who you are,” he said, of fighters chosen for such trips.

LeBlanc praised his young fighter and said he has what it takes to succeed.

Brandon French, 13, is heading to Scotland with his coach Joe LeBlanc next month for a boxing match.

“Anyone coming into the sport at a young age has to have the heart and dedication and he does,” said LeBlanc. “He has a chance to go far. You have to eat, sleep and breathe it and he does.”

French’s father Ken said that Brandon started boxing when he was nine-years-old. Ken said that being around the club has changed his viewpoints on boxing and that “it’s like a family in here.”

“It’s a great sport. I wish I had gotten into it when I was younger,” Ken said.

Brandon said that he is excited to have the opportunity to compete internationally.

“I’ve always been excited about it. I don’t really feel any nerves,” he said. “I’m excited to experience a different country and a different boxing community there.”

Brandon added it was early December when he got the word.

“I was training one day and Joe walked up to me and put his arm on my shoulder, looked at me and said ‘do you want to go to Scotland?’” said Brandon. “That’s how I found out.”

Brandon added he is training harder than ever, as he is not only at the gym the four nights a week that it is open, but he and Ken open the gym on off-days to get in another workout.

“(Scotland) is sending their best and I have to be at my best as well,” he said. “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in boxing, by far.”

Noting he has 12 fights to this point, Brandon said he is also excited to represent his country and his gym on an international stage. He said he is thankful to his coaches, sparring partners and club for their assistance.

“I feel happy that all of my hard work has paid off,” he said.

The FIBC is trying to raise $2,500 to help send Brandon and LeBlanc to Scotland. They have set up a page on, with it being found by searching “A Contender That Won’t Surrender.” The direct link can be found by clicking here.

The public is also invited to the FIBC, at the corner of Victoria and Simcoe streets, from 6-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday if they want to donate.

Four local fighters come home with medals from recent Silver Gloves boxing tournament



By Ron Giofu


Four local fighters that train out of the Fighting Island Boxing Club travelled to the recent Silver Gloves tournament and came home with medals.

Tyler Fraser and Jesse Carter each won gold medals, Eric Leardi captured a silver medal and Nate DiPasquale won a bronze medal.

Leardi said it was his first experience at a boxing tournament and the super-heavyweight spent six months training.

“We’ve got a good team here. We get along well and we push each other,” said Leardi.

The Silver Gloves tournament was a “phenomenal experience” and that he “can’t say enough” about how good it was. He said boxing has a perception of being a barbaric sport are not the case, praising the sportsmanship that goes into it.

“It’s a team sport. It’s very humbling,” he said. “You really get a different level of competitive bonding.”

DiPasquale said the experience at the Silver Gloves tournament was fun, stating he had a good game plan going in.

Four fighters from Amherstburg’s Fighting Island Boxing Club won medals recently at the Silver Glovers tournament. From left: Tyler Fraser, Nate DiPasquale, coach  Matt DiPasquale, Eric Leardi, Jesse Carter.

“I thought I fought well,” he said. “I felt I fought well with one of the elite guys in my division.”

DiPasquale, who fought in the 152 lbs. weight class, said it was definitely one of his bigger fights and wanted to use it as a measuring stick to see how far he has progressed. He believes his progress is due to his teammates at the Fighting Island Boxing Club as well as the coaches.

“It feels good,” Carter said of his gold medal.

Carter fought twice with his weight class being 132 lbs. He said when you walk out of the ring as the best in the province at your age and weight class, “it shows how far you’ve come.”

This is one of the bigger fights he’s been in, said Carter, who trains at the Fighting Island Boxing Club about three nights per week.

Fraser said “it feels pretty good. I worked pretty hard for it so I’m glad I got the win.”

The gold medal was one of Fraser’s bigger accomplishments and was his third fight. He said it was “pretty special” to come home with a gold medal.

“I train every day (the boxing club) is open,” he said. “Then I go to the gym and then I also work out at home.”

Fraser added he likes seeing the results of what can happen when you train hard.

Coach Matt DiPasquale said “it was an amazing experience” and that he was proud to be their coach. He said the fighters definitely exceeded expectations.

“We definitely have a name for ourselves,” Matt added, of the Fighting Island boxers. “We show up and we last. It’s always a hard fight when you fight someone from Fighting Island.”

Anyone who wishes to make a donation or sponsor the club can visit the club, located at the corner of Simcoe St. and Victoria St. S. between 6-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

Amherstburg Firefighters Association donates to boxing club



By Ron Giofu


Members of the Amherstburg Fighting Island Boxing Club pour their blood and sweat into every training night and every fight.

Now, they need a new mat in their sparring ring because of that blood and sweat, as well as the rips and tears.

The Amherstburg Professional Firefighters Association was at the boxing club last Wednesday night and donated $500 towards the new mat. The current mat has been there the entire ten years that the boxing club has been located in the former Scout Hall at the corner of Victoria St. S. and Simcoe St.

Firefighter association members B.J. Wilder and John Bondy were at the boxing club last Wednesday making the presentation to Joe LeBlanc and Ken French. Wilder said the association fundraises all year and makes donations to causes and people in order to give back to the community.

Amherstburg Firefighters Association members John Bondy and B.J. Wilder (left) present a $500 cheque to Joe LeBlanc and Ken French of the Fighting Island Boxing Club. The money will be put towards replacing the canvas and mat in the boxing ring at the club.

“We’re contributing to them getting a new apron,” said Wilder, whose daughter boxes out of the club.

LeBlanc, who owns the club as well as coaches the fighters, was thrilled with the donation.

“We’re ecstatic,” he said. “This is a nice chunk of change. We’re in need a new canvas. We’re in desperate need.”

The current canvas is ripped and patched with duct tape with LeBlanc adding there is “a lot of blood and sweat, for sure” on it.

“It’s kind of rotting away on us,” he said.

Once the club raises enough money – total cost is about $1,800 – for the mat and the canvas, members of the Fighting Island Boxing Club will install it themselves.

The Fighting Island Boxing Club invites members of the community to like its Facebook page or join its group.

“Lights Out at the Libro” presented by Fighting Island Boxing Club


By Jonathan Martin


Beer, sweat and blood all flowed freely at the Libro Centre last Saturday.

Fighting Island Boxing Club hosted its “Lights Out at the Libro” event, where 20 amateur boxers fought it out in front of professional judges and a screaming crowd.

The card included athletes from a variety of age brackets and one women’s bout.  There was also a 50/50 draw and a raffle for a boxing-themed still-life painting with a handmade frame sculpted by Amherstburg Town Councillor Leo Meloche, who said he had never attended a boxing match before.

According to Fighting Island Boxing Club owner/coach Joe LeBlanc, the event went “pretty well.”

LeBlanc said that he had originally scheduled 18 boxers to compete, but lost almost half of them in the days leading up to the event.

“It tends to happen in amateur sports,” he said.  “Either people back out or have other obligations.  It is what it is.”

Nate DiPasquale strikes Quentin Broad in the last bout of the night. DiPasquale walked away victorious.

Those who did compete, though, did “fantastic,” according to LeBlanc.

“It’s not about winning or losing in a club show,” he said.  “It’s all about entertaining the public and getting these young athletes the experience in the ring.”

LeBlanc said that as long as the boxers learned something in this local event they could use in one of the larger travel tournaments, their bout was a win.

Leo Meloche (right) created a frame shaped like a boxing ring with a print he bought a few years ago and donated it back to the Fighting Island Boxing Club. The club raffled it off at the July 14 show.

Nate DiPasquale is an Amherstburg native who finished off the night with a bloodied face, a win and a smile.  He said the night benefited everyone.

“It was really great seeing all these people come out,” he said.  “Getting the community together like this, it’s good for the club and it’s good for the town.”

DiPasquale said fighting in front of his home community was both unique and empowering.  He said seeing the faces and hearing the cheers gave him a boost, but he had to reconcile that emotion with the cold precision of an intense, six-minute bout.

“You have to sort of block it all out and just focus on the other guy, where his hands are and where your head is,” he said.  “(Family and friends) will be there to celebrate with you afterwards.”

The audience’s tickets cost $20 apiece, with all the proceeds going back into Fighting Island’s non-profit programming.



“Lights Out at the Libro” coming this Saturday



By Ron Giofu


A full night of amateur boxing is coming to Amherstburg this Saturday.

The Fighting Island Boxing Club is hosting “Lights Out at the Libro” with a full card of fighters scheduled to compete in Rink A at the Libro Centre. As of press time, there were 16 boxing matches on the card.

“We’ve got six local kids fighting on the show,” said FIBC owner/coach Joe LeBlanc. “We’ve got gyms coming in from Brampton, Brantford, Toronto, Sarnia, Burlington, Windsor and Michigan. We’ve got several fighters coming from Detroit.”

Among the local fighters will be Brandon French (88 lbs. weight class), Jesse Carter (130 lbs.), Eric Leardi (200 lbs.), Tyson Whalen (165 lbs.), Carter White (117 lbs.) and Nate DiPasquale (150 lbs.).

“It will be a good show,” said LeBlanc.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the fights begin at 7 p.m. Seating will be on a first come, first served basis. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the door.

There will be a 50/50 draw, door prizes, food and a cash bar as well.

“Come early, get seated and enjoy a beer,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc added that it is a chance to highlight local talent. He said everyone is excited and looking forward to Saturday night’s show.

“It’s to showcase kids from our community,” he said.

Any money raised will go right back into the Fighting Island Boxing Club, LeBlanc added. Money is used to help fund out-of-town trips to tournaments and other fights.

One such out-of-town trip was last weekend when French fought the Irish national champion in Toronto. Though he didn’t win, French was happy for the experience.

“I lost my fight to the best in Europe,” said French. “I thought I did really well. It was a good experience overall. I got to meet a lot of people from a different country.”

French said he was proud of how he fought and “I’m proud of the end result.”

Whether it be in Amherstburg or elsewhere, French added he enjoys getting into the ring.

“I happy to just fight,” he said. “A fight is a fight. Win or lose, I’ll take it.”