Oh, dear God, what have I gotten myself into?
That’s what went through my head as I listened to boxing coach Dave Schuck explain the world of pain I was about to enter. He didn’t mince words about the grueling training regime I had flippantly signed up for. “It’s going to be tough, you are going to be in a lot of pain, and some of you aren’t going to make it.”
For the second year in a row, the craft beer industry and the Eastside Boxing Club in Chinatown are teaming up to help raise funds for the free community programs the gym offers. It’s called Beer Wars, and stupidly, I volunteered to be one of the sacrificial lambs. Have you heard of Aprons for Gloves? It’s the same thing, but with beer nerds instead of bartenders and baristas.
So how it works is, each brewery gets to send a fighter, Schuck and his staff will abuse train us three days a week for three months, and the lucky ones who survive will get to beat the crap out of each other at the main event at the end of April. The proceeds from the event will help support the non-profit boxing club’s free community programs, many of which focus on supporting youth and women in the Downtown Eastside.
“Our afterschool kids program provides free training and food for kids at risk from the ages of 11 to 19,” says Schuck. “We also have a group of young adults in transition from hospice, and self-defence class for women in the Downtown Eastside.
“We’ve got kids who’ve been here for the last year, and they’ve seen improvements in their grades and their health, of course. A lot of kids, the only healthy meal they get is when they come here.”
A noble cause, for sure. The event raised close to $30,000 last year, which has undoubtedly done considerable good for the Downtown Eastside community.
I’m representing Main Street Brewing Co., and they would be wise to bet against me at this point. I’ve hit a bag before, I’ve done a few “boxercise” classes here and there, but I’m coming into this with basically no idea what I’m doing.
Thankfully, I’m not alone.
In all, about 60 people from the craft beer industry are taking part, around two thirds of them women. I am very thankful I’m not fighting in their division, because just about every single one of them would mercilessly beat me to a pulp. Lots of Tough Mudder and triathlon T-shirts. They are fit, prepared, and this isn’t their first rodeo.
The dudes on the other hand? We’re looking preeetty soft, I gotta say. (I’m probably going to get pummeled for saying that, but that was bound to happen anyway.) It should be noted that I am the undisputed King of Soft. I’m literally the squishiest person there, as well as the sweatiest. My apologies to whoever has to mop the floors at Eastside.
The average 90-minute training session involves Schuck hurling abuse and running us ragged. He made it very clear that he has a “three strikes” rule when it comes to crying. Thankfully, no such rule applies to puking, which I’ve come very close to doing pretty much every class.
But to Schuck’s credit, he’s an equal-opportunity sadist. Everyone gets their fair share of abuse. After all, it’s his job to get us fight-ready in just three months, so he’s really got his work cut out for him.
Schuck runs a tight ship, but what it boils down to is this: Do what he says, work hard, and no whining. And whatever you do, don’t show up late, or you’ll be sweeping the gym (I found that one out the hard way).
It’s a long road to the main event, and I’m only two weeks into the training. It’s still not a given I’ll even be picked for the fight night (or if I’ll even survive that long). I’m currently going through Epsom salts by the metric ton and I’m popping ibuprofen like they’re Tic Tacs. I live in a world of pain.
The main event takes place April 29 at the Croatian Cultural Centre, and all of the breweries fielding fighters will also be pouring, so the craft beer selection is guaranteed to be on point.
“You’re going to see people who have been training really, really hard for three months, and they are letting it all go and letting the fists fly,” says Schuck. “All their friends are there, so they are swinging for the fences.”
So keep an eye out for Rob “The Human Punching Bag” Mangelsdorf. Has a nice ring to it.
• Follow BC Beer Wars on Instagram at @BCBeerWars and stay tuned for ticket sales coming soon