Ahtakakoop’s Cole Ahenakew took home top honours at the inaugural Will Skopyk Memorial Boxing Tournament on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.
The Red Wolf Boxing Club fighter overcame a quick knockdown in the first round to come back and beat Edmonton’s Mannu Ahlawat by unanimous decision at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre. The spirited fight was named Top Bout at Saturday’s competition, and earned Ahenakew the Best Boxer of the Night trophy.
“It’s a lot of emotions,” Ahenakew said when asked for his reaction following the awards ceremony. “I’m really happy with my performance. I had a good comeback from the beginning and I persevered. I feel pretty on top of the world right now. I feel good.”
Ahenakew had the hometown crowd’s backing when he stepped into the ring for Saturday’s main event, but Ahlawat silenced those supporters early. The southpaw out of the Westchester Boxing Club caught Ahenakew with a clean left in the first round, dropping the local fighter to one knee.
Ahenakew said the punch caught him off guard, but he vowed it wouldn’t happen again.
“I was (thinking), ‘I’m going to get him back, I’m going to get him back. I’m not letting that slide,’” he said with a chuckle. “I knew I could handle it. I took his best punch right there cleanly. I figured out that he was a southpaw, and I adjusted.”
A cagey second round led to a more wide-open third round where the two fighters traded punches, but without any further knockdowns. Hometown supporters erupted when the judges gave Ahenakew the decision.
“I’m just so grateful for my family, my coach, (and) all my support,” Ahenakew said. “They all came together to help me win this. It’s not just me. I’m pretty cultural too, so I give it all up to God too.”
The high of winning Best Boxer of the Night was even more emotional considering the circumstances. Ahenakew trained with and boxed against Will Skopyk when the pair competed out of the Thomas Settee Boxing Club.
Now 25, Ahenakew said it was an honour to compete at a tournament held in memory of Skopyk, who died in a car crash nearly four years ago at the age of 17.
“I have a lot of respect for Will. I always did, and I’m very grateful that we had this event,” Ahenakew said. “I could just feel like he was here too.”
Will Skopyk Memorial Boxing Tournament results:
Russell Van Maningo (Alliance Boxing) def. Kolton Whitehead (Nipawin Boxing Club)
Matthew Lafond (Kopas Boxing) def. Braiden Stevenson (Red Warrior Boxing)
David Michell (Red Warrior Boxing) def. Catlin Matheson (Kopas Boxing)
Lukas Tamayo (Red Wolf Boxing) def. Gabe Bear (Red Warrior Boxing)
Sean Cockle (Nipawin Boxing Club) def. Shelby Stranger (Red Warrior Boxing)
Cole Ahenakew (Red Wolf Boxing) def. Mannu Ahlawat (Westchester)