CLOVERDALE — Ken Marjoram joined the British Navy in 1946 at just 15 years old.
He’d ultimately spend nine years with the Navy, stationed mostly in the Mediterranean, then nine more with the Merchant Navy. It was early in his long nautical stint that the young Brit encountered a sport that would become one of the great passions of his life: amateur boxing.
Marjoram left the service in the mid-1960s and moved to the Lower Mainland, bringing that passion with him. No longer an active competitor, he instead became a facilitator. He founded a boxing club in Vancouver. He coached at UBC. He became an official and, finally, a judge.
When Marjoram (PICTURED) met up with fellow transplanted Brit Jimmy Gallagher in the 1970s, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Gallagher, you see, had the very same passion for boxing – the very same desire for helping young kids learn the sport and, along the way, gain self-respect.
Unlike Marjoram, Gallagher’s relationship with boxing began mid-life, when he took his kids to see bouts at the Cloverdale Boxing Club. Soon, he was assisting – any way he could. He’d help with road trips, turning them into large, family-oriented caravans. He raised money, he gave money, he increased public perception. He eventually became a judge and a referee, and president of the club he loved so much.
Gallagher passed away in 2012. And that’s when Marjoram went to work. Determined to keep the memory of his long-time friend alive, he concocted a tribute of sorts – a boxing card dedicated to the local legend. It would be held at the Cloverdale branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, where the two had spent much of their social time and where Marjoram was now an executive.
It turned out to be a pretty good idea. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, Marjoram – and a whole bunch of regional boxing notables – were on hand for the fourth edition of the Jimmy Gallagher Memorial boxing tourney.
It was held, as usual, inside the spacious confines of the Cloverdale Legion, where a full-size boxing ring was assembled and a nine-bout card awaited.
“I thought I should do something to honour Jimmy,” said the 86-year-young Marjoram, sitting ringside, judging the fights and ringing the bell. “We originally started doing this in the parking lot, but you can’t charge anyone outside and you can’t trust the weather.”
It was quite the scene. In a large open area on one side of the ring, boxers skipped rope, sparred with trainers, and warmed up. The rest of the place was jam-packed with fans and acquaintances and families. And of course servers – the cash registers were busy that afternoon.
As each fight began, members of Legion-affiliated dance troupe The Versatiles (PICTURED) played the role of “ring girls,” dressed in their finest 1920s-era getups and sashaying across the squared circle carrying cards displaying the number of the upcoming round.
The one disappointment of the day – the last-minute cancellation of the feature bout between local heavyweight Tyler Chambers and Washington State opponent Zico Tzolo when the latter encountered passport issues – was offset with some terrific action in the other eight fights.
One of the most entertaining saw Nanaimo fighter Ivy Richardson face off with Seattle’s Laura Wright in the lone women’s match. Fast and smart, it was a raucous amateur contest eventually won – to much applause – by Richardson.
Later, South Surrey native Darcy Hinds (PICTURED), notable not only for coming oh-so-close to making this year’s Olympic team but also for his growing TV and movie stuntman career, would take on North Burnaby’s Robert Couzens in a strong “Elite Open” bout.
“It’s my second time at event,” said Hinds. “I grew up just down the street in South Surrey, so it’s great to come here and give a show to the locals. It’s high-level sparring in front of a crowd. It’s great.”
“The boxers don’t make a cent,’” said veteran boxing advocate Ralph Robson, who at one time ran the Cloverdale Boxing Club and helped set up the 2016 Legion card.
“There are expenses. The ring rental is $300. The ringside doctor is $400. Everything we make beyond that goes back to the BC Amateur Boxing Association.”
Much of the Gallagher clan was on hand, including Jimmy’s eldest son Kerry.
“Dad got into boxing when he first took me to see it. I think I was 11 or 12 years old. We started a boxing club…he was the committee head guy. We travelled everywhere – all through the States with all the parents and families and we all had orange and black colours with our little hats on. It was such a family event. He really changed amateur boxing that way…it became family oriented.
“He’d struggle to watch professional fights because he was strictly about amateur boxing. He respected the amateurs, young kids off the streets learning to respect themselves.”
Marjoram, who keeps busy performing in seniors homes with The Versatiles when he’s not doing his boxing gig, likes what he sees and believes the event’s future is bright.
“This is our biggest turnout so far, both the crowd and the boxers. Once the word gets out that we treat our boxers well, more will want to come. Next year we’ll be even bigger.”