As seen in the Bonnyville Nouvelle
Bonnyville native Rob Nichols is on the cusp of achieving his dream – becoming a Canadian champion.
The 35-year-old professional boxer, who began learning the sport in a small gym in the top floor of a building on 50th Ave. in Bonnyville, is set to step into the ring and go toe-to-toe with Frank “The Hammer” White for the Canadian Cruiserweight title.
“This is what I have always wanted,” said Nichols. “It has been a long haul. All the work to this point will hopefully (pay off).”
After back-to-back losses earlier this year, Nichols rebounded against New Brunswick’s David Whittom, picking up the decision after six hard-hitting rounds, in what many are referring to as fight of the year.
While improving his record to 6-3-1, Nichols no-nonsense, heavy-hitting style impressed promoters.
Representatives at the newly formed promotional company Dekada came calling and placed the local boxer on their first ever event card – Dekada Premier Fight Night.
On Oct. 16 Nichols entered the ring against Shediac, New Brunswick’s Emile Arsenault in a heavyweight bout, which highlighted the fight card.
“The guy had just fought my teammate (Paul Mackenzie) back on Sept. 11 in Edmonton, so my coach knew what he was like and I kind of knew what he was like,” said Nichols.
“We planned properly, everything went to plan and I stopped him in the third round with a body shot.”
The resounding victory over the 48-year-old Arsenault would prove to be the all Nichols needed to land himself a shot at his dream – a chance to fight for the Canadian Cruiserweight title.
“It is one of the most exciting things we have had in Alberta in terms of boxing championships. “It is a pretty big title,” said Dekada representative Dennis Herrmann.
Nichols was in the centre of the ring, drenched in sweat, and completely out of breath after knocking out Arsenault with a series of body shots. His attentions were turned to a nearby video board, where White, the current Canadian Cruiserweight title holder held up his championship belt and challenged Nichols.
“You want this,” said White, pointing a massive championship belt hanging over his left shoulder. “I challenge you to come take it from me.”
After seven years and eleven professional fights, Nichols had been afforded the opportunity to fight for a Canadian Professional Boxing Council (CPBC) title.
“You are a great fighter,” said Nichols, huffing and puffing, in response to White’s challenge. “I respect you just as much as anyone here, but you have something I want and I am coming to get it.”
White, a 44-year-old Sarnia, Ontario native, sports a 10-8-2 record over his ten-year boxing career.
His last fight came on June 7, 2014 in Kauhava, Finland against Juho Haapoja where he was knocked out in the fifth round.
“He is a veteran guy. He is a very crafty guy,” said Nichols of his opponent. “But I am the bigger guy. I’m taller, longer, and I am sure I am stronger.”
According to Nichols the key to this bout will be to keep an even keel and pace himself out over the set ten rounds. Up to this point he has only ever participated in six-round fights, but with a title on the line, he could have to go a full ten.
“Don’t get over zealous,” said Nichols. “With (Arsenault), I knew I hurt him in the first round. I was getting a little exited trying to finish it. I had to slow myself down and try to relax.”
While Nichols is brimming with confidence and feels he has a great shot to be victorious on Dec. 11 in Calgary, others close to the fight are not so sure.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” said Herrmann. “It definitely could go either way.”
Even though he wouldn’t go as far as to give the edge to Nichols, Herrmann said he couldn’t help put pull for the local fighter.
A Nichols victory would be huge for both the boxer and Calgary-based promoter, as it would guarantee several more fights and a defense of the title.
“As a company from the west, we hope he brings the title to the west,” said Herrmann. “(A win) would bring a lot to Calgary, to Alberta and to the west.”
Competing on a national stage, with a shot at becoming a Canadian boxing champion, is a significant step in Nichols career – one that began at the KA Boxing Club in Bonnyville back in 1997.
After graduating from Bonnyville Centralized High School, Nichols went on to work for Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake Operations. It was there he met the son of local boxing coach Ray Kahanyshyn, who, along with fellow coach Ray Dumais, introduced him to the sport of boxing.
“I remember back when I graduated from high school, I just sort of felt like my life wasn’t really going anywhere. At this point I probably weighed 250 pounds,” said Nichols. “I decided I had to do something to get into shape, so I starting the boxing thing and enjoyed it so much that I stuck with it.”
Eighteen years later and Nichols still makes trips back to the local club where he spars with the young, up-and-coming boxers.
“It is like a time warp down there. Nothing has changed. The same guys are doing the same things,” said Nichols, who is happy his success has shined a light on the region, the club and coaches that gave him his first taste of the sport.
“I come from this area. I am proud to support it. If it wasn’t for the club back in Bonnyville none of this would have started.”
In one month Nichols will be standing in the ring at the Genesis Centre, gloves up, bouncing back and forth, awaiting the bell that will start the biggest fight of his life.
“Rob Nichols has always dreamt about that belt,” said Herrmann. “He has never claimed that he wanted to beat Floyd Mayweather one day. His dream is to be a Canadian Champion.”