Just two weeks after winning his first boxing match by unanimous decision, Whistler's Jeff Bate is heading to Cuba with the Griffins Boxing team to train for a week at one of the oldest clubs in that boxing-mad country.
Coach Sasha Gier said it was an incredible opportunity for Bate.
"It's a very good thing (for Bate) because he takes boxing so seriously," he said. "This is a chance to practice with some of the best amateur boxing in the world, and even if it's for a week it's going to be very beneficial to train with those guys. In a lot of ways Cuban boxers are considered the best anywhere, so it should open some eyes for the Canadian guys."
Gier is travelling to Cuba with the 18-member Griffins group to train at Rafael Trejo gymnasium outside of Havana. As well as the oldest club, it also has the distinction of training several international champions, like Felix Savon, Maikro Romero and Noel Hernandez.
It's also an open air facility and students of the club train on equipment that is bordering on "antique," according to Gier, to create "its old school prize fighting ambiance."
The team is bringing old baseball gear that will be distributed to less fortunate families as a gesture of goodwill.
Gier's other Whistler student, James Wark, was not able to join the club because of family obligations, but will be back in the ring on Nov. 28 alongside Bate as both boxers take part in their second sanctioned bouts. Currently the two boxers are training six days a week, including a trip to the Griffins club every Saturday night to spar in a full-size ring. Wark also won his first bout, earning a Technical Knock Out in the second round of his debut.
"We are ready," said Gier of the Nov. 28 date in Vancouver. "The speed is there. We're correcting a few mistakes from our last fight and we're happy with the progress."
Bate is dropping 10 pounds to the 155 pound weight category for the Nov. 28 fight, which is the same weight class as Wark.
The following week both boxers will be on hand to open a new training facility in Pemberton. The gym, located at the high school, will be a Boxing B.C.-sanctioned club with a regulation ring and other equipment.
Gier says the club, under the stewardship of Kevin Murray, is already signing up boxers with an emphasis on recruiting local youth from Pemberton and Mt. Currie as well as providing a facility for Whistler residents. To register, contact Murray at 604-902-5104.