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Catch You On The Rebound

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Cory Pye was only four years old when his father Neil Pye died.

“He was fixing a car and it rolled and crushed his chest,” recalled Cory of the tragedy, which happened in his hometown of North Sydney, Nova Scotia. “He later died in hospital of complications from pneumonia.”

At the age of eight, Pye was enrolled in boxing by his mother Linda in order to keep “me out of trouble.”

Pye, now 42, elaborated: “I was getting bullied and beat up because I was out of shape. We would go to the high school and run laps and do circuit training. That is where I learned to toughen up and get into shape. It gave me confidence.”

At the age of 20, Pye enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“That’s where I got back into boxing,” said Pye, of his three-year stint which included a tour in Bosnia. “In Bosnia, we had a speed bag, a ring and there were a few Golden Gloves guys and we sparred and trained together.”

Leaving the military to become a police officer in Ontario, Pye would continue his training at the prestigious Huf (Heron Ultimate Fitness) Gym in Mississauga.

“I started training there and my coach (Andrew Heron) had to go to the Lennox Lewis camp to help them get ready for the Mike Tyson fight,” said Pye in regards to the June 8, 2002 bout where Canadian professional boxer Lewis retained the WBC, IBF, IBO, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles. “So, that is when he asked me to start training some classes and that is where I fell in love with coaching.”

A battle outside of the ring came his way, when Pye’s stepfather Allan McIntosh was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“He had raised me since I was 10 when he married my mother,” said Pye. “I went back (Nova Scotia) and was going to stay with him until he died.”

With that decision, Pye had to surrender his job as a policeman but found solace while coaching at the Tommy Gordon Boxing Club in Cape Breton.

“I started helping there with the kids,” said Pye, of returning to his roots. “Those few years when I did not have a father, it (boxing) helped me build my confidence. I wanted to give back to other kids.”

Later returning to Huf Gym to in his role of coach and sometimes professional sparring partner, lacing up the gloves against the likes of Troy Amos-Ross and Scotty Olson, Pye, along with his then-wife, relocated to Fort McMurray in 2007.

Working fulltime as a scaffolder, Pye would train amateur boxers part-time in various locales before finding a permanent 2,500-square foot home for Sweet Science Boxing (SSB) at the Nisatwoyou Friendship Centre four years ago.

If you have been around boxing enough, it is easy to tell if the gym is successful or not.

How? The smell.

Walking into SSB, you are met by that distinct smell of success through sweat.

A smell, where young and- old are toiling hard, giving it their best with the opportunity to train seven-days-a-week.

A gym, which, in a short time period,  has produced provincial champions and hosted an Alberta Diamond Belt Championship.

The walls are decorated with boxing posters and photos of the legends of the sport.  Local graffiti artists and volunteers have also brought the walls alive with their creative minds.

“They were looking for a place to paint and instead of on the street, where they could get into trouble, I invited them to come in here to help,” said Pye.

The centerpiece, naturally, is the ring itself which Pye purchased for “something between $10,000 and $12,000.”

SSB may take athletes as young as eight but, “I will take them as young as six as long as they listen. I don’t want to babysit.”

The club offers co-ed, women only, youth classes, open gym along with drop-in and one-on-one training. Various payments including monthly passes, punch passes and drop-in.

His passion for the last 10 years is starting to pay off.

“This is the first year where I did not have to have another job. For the last few years, I  was bouncing evenings. This year the gym has paid for itself. I love it.  It is the only job where it doesn’t feel like a job. It fulfills me.”

Catch you on the rebound!


Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.