The Allison family’s connection to the ‘sweet science’ dates back eight decades.
Today, Langley resident Dave Allison is keeping the family’s boxing tradition alive in the Lower Mainland.
“It’s been in our family for years,” says 61-year-old Dave, the architect of the Clash at the Cascades amateur boxing series that last month celebrated its 50th show at the Coast Hotel ballroom in Langley City.
It all started with Dave’s dad Sam in 1930s Glasgow, in what at the time was one of the British Empire’s worst slums.
The Bridgeton area was one of the grittiest neighbourhoods in the country in the 1930s, and in that era, local boxer Benny Lynch was an up-and-coming flyweight. The then three-year-old Sam was carried into the ring on Lynch’s shoulders as a good luck mascot.
Lynch went on to become one of the great flyweight boxers of the time.
There was no ongoing connection between Allison and Lynch. Allison went on to do some amateur boxing and then boxed in the army.
In the west of Scotland in those times, boxers often fought at carnivals in what were called boxing booths — it was a low-end pro activity in the region. Sam Allison boxed in the booths and this is how he ended his boxing activity.
Sam introduced Dave to the sport at age seven at North Vancouver’s Eagles Boxing Club. Dave was raised in the lower Lonsdale area. In the 1960s and ’70s Lonsdale was a hardscrabble neighbourhood, much different than it is today.
By his own admission, Dave says he was an off-and-on gym rat until he turned 13.
In boxing, gym rat often refers to a guy who trains and spars and is useful, but doesn’t do much more than that, Dave explained.
“I only boxed a couple of bouts,” he said.
Dave and his dad were always boxing fans and often spent time together watching the fights.
In his 20s and 30s, Dave was just a fan of the sport.
He later took a more hands-on role when he brought son James to the Langley Boxing Club.
It was 1990 and eight-year-old James and his dad met Denny Ross.
All the Allisons had a great respect for Ross, and to this day one of the driving factors for Dave to continue the lineage of the Langley Boxing Club is based on a promise he made to the local boxing icon many years ago.
“Denny had asked me to keep the club going after he was diagnosed with cancer,” Dave said. “I gave him my word on that, and I’ve been trying to continue that.”
Ross’s legacy continues in many ways. One of them is an annual award the Allison family created, called the Denny Ross Memorial, given to the to the person in boxing making the most significant contribution to the sport in B.C.
James, it turns out, was a natural. He started competing at age 10 and amassed 72 amateur fights. Also at age 10, James was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and boxed all 72 fights as a diabetic.
He medaled twice in national competition and boxed in the U.S. and Europe. Over his time in the ring he was awarded two tournament awards as best boxer, won three Golden Gloves, and captured five B.C. championships.
Meanwhile, his dad moved around the local boxing scene, becoming head coach of the Burnaby Boxing Club, Cloverdale Boxing Club, Port Kells Boxing Club and then resurrected the Langley Club about 12 years ago.
“I went in as a dad and one thing led to the other,” Dave said. “I started working with other kids there, and that was it and I just kept doing it.”
Langley City Boxing remains active and Allison has trained many fighters, including former world champion Diane Dutra. He currently trains Fort Langley pro Sarah Pucek, who holds both the Canadian and Commonwealth Championship as well as the North American Boxing Federation titles.
Dave and James founded The British Columbia Combative Sports Association (COMBSPORT) about a decade ago. COMBSPORT, of which Allison is president, has facilitated an average of 25 boxing shows per year over the last decade in B.C.
“(The year) 2017 was a bit of a lull because I took a bit of a break the last half of the year,” Dave said. “We only did about 18 (COMBSPORT-organized boxing) shows last year but that was deliberate. We’re only going to do about that (many) this year, because we’re trying to get pro boxing going. And that’s important to us.”
In 2014 Combsport affiliated with the WBC (World Boxing Council).
The Allisons are now moving to develop pro boxing in B.C., and said at both the amateur and pro levels, safety is priority one.
“Just to give you an idea of the quality of our officials, the B.C. Athletic Commission, when they started in 2013, they had to get licensed officials to deal with boxing,” Allison said. “All of their officials that are with boxing, are COMBSPORT officials. Joel Scobie, one of our referees, he gets assignments all over the world.”
Dave says COMBSPORT has not to his recollection had a serious injury to one of its boxers.
“One thing we do with COMBSPORT is, we make it a rule that no bout is more than two minute rounds whereas three minutes is pro,” Dave explained. “We look at it as, pro is three minutes, fair enough, amateur should be two. Being prepared to do three minutes (rounds) is something most amateurs are not prepared to do.”
In keeping with his promise to Ross, Dave is looking to place the club in a Langley community centre.
Dave says he would like to see the located in a situation where young boys and girls can have easy access as he had in his youth.
The club currently operates out of Revolution Martial Arts and has been there for about seven years.
“We will always be part of Revolution,” said Allison. “The club is doing very well. We need to make the sport to more kids and this will be our goal over the near future.”
Clash at the Cascades and Clash 51 takes place April 6 at the Coast Hotel.
“Without a doubt, this is the centre of the boxing universe in B.C.,” Allison said.