When Kelowna masters boxer George Sanders stepped to the middle of the ring after his gold medal bout at the Ringside World Championships boxing tournament earlier this month, he felt he had earned a victory.
Fighting in the 125 pound masters division the 56-year-old Sanders had been the aggressor in the bout, seeming to out-class his opponent, American boxer Edmund Choi.
Watching video of the fight, Sanders dances out of his corner to begin each round, firing a quick jab throughout and landing more blows than his opponent.
But with the scorecards left up to the judges, Sanders didn’t hear his name called and instead lost a split decision with two judges awarding the bout to Choi, the defending champion, and one giving it to the Kelowna resident.
Both boxers appeared surprised at the decision when it was announced.
The result stung, but Sanders, a former decorated junior boxer, was more than happy with the way he boxed, less than three years after stepping back into the ring and after a nearly 20 year hiatus.
“I went to the tournament to win the belt so I’m disappointed I didn’t get it,” said Sanders. “If you see the video you will understand that I thought I won the bout but instead came out on the short side of a 2-1 split decision. I’m not hugely disappointed because I liked the way I boxed and I was able to perform on a big stage with all the expected pressure and intensity. Furthermore I can show the video of my ‘loss’ to any knowledgeable boxing person with a lot of pride.”
Watch Sanders bouts by following the links:
The World Ringside tournament is the largest boxing tournament in the world with over 1,500 athletes competing in the four day event. For masters boxers (over 40) the event is considered the world championships and Sanders had trained hard leading up to the tournament. Fighting in the 125 pound division the 5-foot-6 scrapper was sharp throughout the event, advancing to the final with a win over Mark Brown of Kansas.
It was a return to the ring for Sanders who stepped back into the sport about three years ago, joining the Kelowna Boxing Club as a way to get in better shape.
As a junior in North Vancouver, Sanders was a provincial champion and compiled a 9-2 record and as his skill set returned, so too did his interest in the sweet science and competing in the ring. He fought in a couple of exhibitions along the way and focussed on the world championships.
A father of two girls Sanders passion for boxing is back and his skill level has risen fast, giving him something to strive for in the world of masters boxing. He also credits coach Dave Habib for taking masters boxing seriously and working well with him.
“My skill level today is better than it was as a 17-year-old because Dave has taken me seriously as an athlete and taken the time to build on my skill foundation,” he said.
Finding bouts as a masters boxer at 125 pounds isn’t the easiest thing in the world. For now Sanders is continuing to train but there are no immediate bouts scheduled. He feels he has unfinished business at the Ringside World Championships and says by this time next year he will be a much improved boxer.