If boxer Cole Hamel is going to get an chance to fight for a B.C. championship, he’s going to have to exercise something he has not yet needed in his short career – patience.
The 22-year-old fighter, who boxes out of Stephen Lapre’s Ocean City Boxing/Dragon’s Den Martial Arts in South Surrey, had intended to fight for a provincial title belt April 9 in Gibsons, but a hand injury suffered during his last fight has set him back.
Now, the boxer – who fights in the 160-pound weight class – waits to heal before stepping back into the ring.
“It’s a little sore. I need an MRI for it, but the wait is really long – like November. It’s started to heal now, I’d say I’m at about 75 per cent,” Hamel explained.
“It’s tough because I was given this opportunity to fight for the provincial title. I was pretty upset at the beginning, but I know now I just have to wait for my next chance.”
So far, Hamel hasn’t had to wait to find success between the ropes.
He’s only been boxing for a year and a half, and has already racked up a perfect 4-0 record, including his last bout, which was in a higher weight class against an experienced, bigger fighter.
Last September, Hamel defeated Coquitlam’s Tyson Gemby for the city title belt – a regional championship one rung below a provincial title.
Though success has come rapidly for Hamel – who began boxing in Richmond, before moving to the Semiahmoo Peninsula to train at Lapre’s gym – he says he never expected any of it.
He originally showed interest in the sport simply because he’d always enjoyed physical activity – he trained in Muay Thai as a teen – and because he wanted to get into shape.
“I did Muay Thai before, but I stopped, basically because back then I partied too much,” he said. “But I just like to fight. Getting into the ring, I like everything about it.”
His level of focus now far exceeds his commitment to Muay Thai, he admits.
“Everything else I do in my life now revolves around boxing. Any spare time I have, I put towards boxing. Even if I’m not here in the gym, I’m at home doing something,” he said.
“Plus it’s other stuff like diet and taking care of yourself. Now, I don’t make a decision without thinking ‘How will this affect my training?’ It’s not like it was back in my high-school days – now, if you’re not eating right, or you’ve went out and had a few drinks, you feel it the next day in the gym. It’s a big commitment, but it’s not tough – I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Natural talent aside, that dedication is a major reason Hamel has been able to win his first four fights, Lapre said.
In his time at Ocean City, Hamel has not only refined his skills, but in many respects, turned into a completely different type of fighter, his trainer added.
“When he first started, he was more of a banger. He was a power puncher, but very flat-footed,” Lapre explained.
“But I saw his potential to be a really good mobile fighter, as opposed to somebody who only had power.”
Under Lapre’s tutelage, Hamel has improved his footwork – the hardest thing to improve, the young boxer admitted – and is much more elusive in the ring.
“You need to be able to move around and slip out of situations – to hit but not be hit, essentially,” he said.
Lapre points to Hamel’s recent fight – in which he hurt his hand – against the larger Cody Robertson as a prime example of how far his boxer has come.
The two fighters were very similar “power punchers”, Lapre said, adding that “it was a bit of an experiment to see how much Cole had improved.”
Despite his hand injury, Hamel fared well, winning the bout unanimously, using his newfound mobility and speed to his advantage against the larger Robertson.
“If we hadn’t trained Cole to be more mobile, that fight would’ve been power versus power, two guys just standing there duking it out in the centre of the ring. But that wouldn’t have been conducive to Cole’s success, especially not in a heavier weight class. To win that fight… that shows me how far he’s come.”
Now, with an uncertain future on the horizon – there very well could be a new 160-pound provincial champion after April 9 – Hamel is content to train as much as he can while waiting for his injury to heal.
When he does return to full strength, he plans to make up for lost time.
“I didn’t start doing this so I could win anything. I just had the drive to want to fight and compete,” he said. “But if my next fight isn’t for the title, it still has to mean something – It has to help put me in line for it down the road.”