A young man from Hay River is currently fighting to make a name for himself in the sport of boxing.
Jesse Mackie, who lives in Grande Prairie, Alta., already has four amateur fights under his belt since 2017.
“I’ve always wanted to do boxing,” said the 21-year-old. “So when I lived in Hay River, I bought myself a heavy bag, a punching bag, and I hung it up in my dad’s garage, now his man cave. I just started watching YouTube videos and I bought some boxing gloves, not a very good pair, but I bought some.”
His interest in boxing was despite the fact there was and is no boxing club in Hay River.
“It was a good way to, I guess, be active,” he said. “Stress relief, I’d say.”
Now as a novice boxer, Mackie said his goal is to “go open.”
That means a boxer can become an open fighter after 10 fights and compete against anyone in Canada and the United States, he explained. “You get more opportunities to fight better, higher-class fighters, and you kind of have to work your way up. That’s when you get closer to Olympic-level boxing.”
Open fighting also means not wearing headgear and longer rounds.
“If I’m lucky enough, I’ll hopefully open up next year or look at 2021 depending on my fight schedule,” said Mackie.
Currently, he has a record of three wins and one loss.
That includes a win in his only bout at the Alberta Provincial Boxing Championships in Leduc in March.
“That was my third win in a row,” he noted. “I’ve gone on a little hat trick here. I lost my first fight, which was a close split decision. And since then I’ve racked up three in a row, and I’ve got another fight coming up June 1.”
That will be in Slave Lake, Alta., where he will fight for a title called Diamond Belt.
“It’s really just a step up in competition,” Mackie explained, noting there will be fighters from the United States, and possibly Saskatchewan and B.C.
Mackie – who fights as a light welterweight – does not make any predictions on where boxing might take him when he goes open.
“Kind of play it by ear,” he said. “See what the other skill level across Canada is like.”
However, he does have some long-term goals.
“I’m doing it for experience,” he said. “I really like coaching. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. That’s my mindset. I’m doing it to learn.”
Sometime in the future he would even like to bring that experience as a boxer to Hay River, where he grew up and graduated from Diamond Jenness Secondary School in 2015.
“Maybe when I’m a little older and have some more credibility to my name, I’d like to open up a boxing gym,” he said. “Try to bring it back to the Territories.”
Currently, he coaches part-time at the gym where he has been training since 2017 in Grande Prairie – the Champion Gym Mixed Martial Arts Boxing Club.
His full-time job is as an education assistant with the Grade Prairie Public School District.
Mackie noted there are a lot of different things he likes about boxing.
“I think I like the personal challenge of always trying to improve after every fight,” he said.
Boxing is also a thrill, he added. “Fighting is exhilarating. I’m always calm. It’s like a natural thing for me to be calm. My first fight, I was really nervous and tense, and the adrenalin is going and everything rational goes out the window.”
And he likes that boxing is an individual sport.
“It’s just you,” he said. “Your coach doesn’t get in there to fight for you, your teammates don’t get in there. It’s you. As a kid, I always kind of craved that sort of competition, but there were never really many sports you could do that in.”
His father, Garth Mackie, thinks it is “awesome” that his son is boxing.
“It’s something he kind of took the initiative to do himself,” said the elder Mackie. “He got into it and he loves it, actually. He trains really hard and he’s very, very dedicated to it. So I’m behind him all the way, for sure.”
While he has never boxed, Garth Mackie noted he is a fan of the sport.
“I’ve been a boxing fan all my life,” he said. “I remember as a kid watching Muhammad Ali fighting and stuff like that on TV. Certainly when there was boxing happening on TV it was on in the house and I’ve always had a great appreciation for the sport.”
As for whether that influenced his son to take up boxing, he said, “I don’t know. It’s very possible, I suppose. He knows that I’m a boxing fan.”
Garth Mackie went to his son’s first fight and hopes to attend the upcoming fight in Slave Lake.
As for the punching bag that his son hung in his garage, Garth Mackie noted, “It’s still in there.”