Editor’s note: For the next number of weeks The News will run a story on the Albion Amateur Boxing Club on Saturdays to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary.
NEW GLASOW – Erin Simpson’s time in the ring was brief, but had a major impact on her life.
The 21-year-old from New Glasgow started boxing in 2007 when she was in Grade 9 after friends Dylin Curiston and Stephen Bates started showing her what they were learning at the club. Never having a hobby growing up she decided to give it a try.
“It all started with them showing me how to throw a punch, which I thought was pretty cool,” said Simpson. “They told me I had a pretty good arm on me, so I went down to try it out and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Although she did join, she said initially getting permission from her mother to box wasn’t so easy. Simpson said the agreement she had with her mom at first was that she would be allowed to go to train, but there would be no competing. At the end of that year she ended up going to Newfoundland for her first bout after a lot more convincing.
“My mom definitely didn’t want me in the ring at first and it took Jim (Worthen) and I to do more convincing to let me in the ring for a bout at the end of the year,” she said.
Simpson said the first was “terrible,” as it had to be stopped early. She also lost her second fight, but it went the distance. Her third fight was just a few weeks later.
“After losing the first two fights I was really hoping to get my first win, but didn’t have too much confidence yet,” said Simpson. “I was supposed to be fighting a third girl, but for some reason things got changed around and on the way to the fight Jim told me I was going to be against the girl I had just lost to. I ended up winning against her, which was more important than any of the bouts I had ever been in. It was a big confidence boost to win in the rematch and got me really excited about being competitive with it.”
At the end of that year a number of her friends in the club went to nationals, including Norma Marshall who returned with her third medal. Simpson said she decided she wanted to be like them and have the opportunity to attend nationals.
Although Marshall is just a year older than her, when Simpson started at the club Marshall had already been boxing for five years.
“I really looked up to her when I started there even though she was basically the same age,” said Simpson. “The club was really close and everyone was like a family, but Norma and I got close because once I started travelling we were on the same cards a few times and we would stay in the same hotel rooms. I wouldn’t have gotten where I did without her being around to help push me and give me a fellow boxer to look up to.”
Although her career out of the Albion club was short Simpson did reach the goal of attending two national championships, winning silver in Edmonton in 2009 and gold in Halifax in 2010.
“There hasn’t been a moment in my life that has lived up to winning that gold medal in Halifax,” she said. “It was an unbelievable feeling after working hard towards that for three years after seeing my friends accomplish similar feats of their own.”
Accomplishing the national success she did in a short period of time happened because of the coaches at the club according to Simpson.
“The biggest thing Jim and Barry (Sponagle) taught us was discipline, respect and dedication,” she said. “I had never really had that kind of dedication towards anything, but by them pushing me to be like that it changed me. Jim was also big on goals. He always talked about setting goals and being dedicated to achieving those goals.”
Now a science student at University of New Brunswick, Simpson said Worthen pushing her to set and achieve goals as a boxer has helped her in her studies.
“Nobody pushed like Jim when it came to setting goals, but now when I want to get an A in a course I know what I need to do and how to maintain my focus on achieving that goal,” she said. “They helped me learn how to do that.”
Being away for school, Simpson only gets to visit the club after her winter term. Each May she makes sure to visit the club, sometimes helping out during the sessions. She said from when she was there training she notices a big difference.
“It’s definitely a huge change in the environment there, with the Bates boys not there and a bunch of older people not there,” said Simpson. “Al (Archibald) has also helped with the training for all the kids now with all his research. We didn’t have the same system in place, but with Al working with Barry and Jim this group will do well. There are a lot of younger kids now, but they’re coming up.
“There hasn’t been too many national medals lately, but I can tell you they’re coming.”
With the club celebrating their 25th anniversary and looking to host a card for the first time in a few years Simpson is looking forward to attending. She said participating in their 20th anniversary card was a great experience for her.
“It was so exciting to box here at home and have all of us from the club win our bouts that year,” she said. “Leading up to it there was a big buzz around the club and on that day Jim was so excited for all of us. It’s really special having a card like this and I’m looking forward to the card this year.”
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