Here we are

A (long) note from Laura:

Here we are. It's Grand Opening Day.

I started boxing for fitness almost ten years ago. When I started training with Terence Fowler at FightFit on a dare issued by Grant LaFleche, I certainly never thought I'd eventually find myself stepping through the ropes to fight, and even further from my mind was the possibility of someday opening a boxing club.

But, then, Erica died. My younger sister ended her life following a very long battle with mental health and addictions issues and a troubled family life. And the bottom fell out of my world.

Erica's death and trying to cope with it and make sense of it thrust me into a place where I was forced to deal with my own past traumas - emotional and physical. That's when I asked to be on the fight card for a local charity event.

And, along with talk therapy, boxing helped to heal me. 

That's why, when I approached Cathy van Ingen to talk about preparing for my first fight and she told me about the Shape Your Life program that she'd been running in Toronto along with Joanne Green, I knew I had to bring the program to Niagara.

I didn't anticipate that I would someday (along with some very talented people who are also great friends) be opening a boxing club. I thought I would be able to find a home for Shape Your Life and that's how we would help self-identifying women and feminine-identifying survivors of violence.

But here we are.

Just two days before what would have been Erica's 40th birthday, we are opening a boxing club. We are opening a boxing club that will help survivors of violence heal from their trauma. We are opening a boxing club that will welcome everyone who walks through its doors, regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, ability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. We are opening a boxing club where people will realize how strong they really are, build confidence, and feel empowered. We are opening a club where people will learn proper boxing technique and a get an incredible workout, but where no one will ever get hit and there will be no intimidation. We are opening a boxing club that will do good things for the community.

When this journey officially started in February of this year, I didn't know that we'd ever see today. There were a lot of bumps along the way with property managers and realtors and insurance brokers and fundraising. But - again - here we are.

We wouldn't be here today were it not for Hugo Chesshire, Arienne Good, Laura Hughes, and Trevor Twining believing in my vision and joining me on the board of directors to bring Underdogs Boxing Club to life. Thank you to Cathy van Ingen and Joanne Green for supporting us and sharing their wisdom along the way so that everyone involved with Shape Your Life in Niagara can have a good experience. Thank you to Michelle Knapman and Jen Roberge for jumping in with both feet to volunteer to coach the Shape Your Life participants with me. Thank you to Terence Fowler at FightFit for supporting us and offering advice along the way. Thank you to Asma and Jag of BestSports for reaching out to us to become our equipment sponsor. Thank you to CUPE 4207 for believing in us very early on and stepping up to become our first financial sponsor. Thank you to Rob Welch of Lancaster, Brooks & Welch and to Ruth Unrau for believing in me and what Underdogs is trying to accomplish and making significant sponsorship contributions. Thank you to Itty Bitty Pie Company for pointing out the physical space that is now Underdogs Boxing Club and for all of the support and encouragement along the way, and to Edible Options, Julius Pizza, and H2Only for supporting our Grand Opening event today. Thank you to Rob Pennock for all of the manual labour that has gone into hanging heavy bags and double-end bags, donating to Underdogs, and supporting me and my vision. Thank you to every single one of you who became members or donated toward memberships for people experiencing poverty. And thank you to my amazing children for painting (so much painting) and cleaning (also so much cleaning) Underdogs and for being excited and supportive of every venture I throw myself into.

Thank you.

Now, I'm going to go hyperventilate before today's opening.

P.S. If you haven't read it, here's a note about how our approach to coaching at Underdogs and what to expect in the first few weeks.


Laura Ip