Heart of a champion

Thomas Settee Boxing Club coach Bob Tichkowskey (fourth from left) holds the Saskatchewan championship belt and medal won by Will Skopyk. Skopyk’s parents Rod (third from left) and Lisa (fourth from right) gave the belt, medal and a donation to the club in memory of Will, who died in a two-vehicle collision in July. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Will Skopyk was remembered for his big heart and dedication to the sport of boxing.

On Wednesday, friends and family members gathered to make sure that legacy continues.

Skopyk was just 17 years old when he died in a car accident on July 24. This week, his family returned the medal and belt he won at the Saskatchewan provincial championship in 2017 to his second home: Prince Albert’s Thomas Settee Boxing Club.

“Like every teen, he kind of questioned himself a bit,” Skopyk’s mother, Lisa Wilhelm-Skopyk, remembered. “When he came to the boxing club, it really helped him build his confidence. It helped with is fitness, his drive, his commitment. He found a real family with the club.”

“The club became his family. It really did,” agreed Rod Skopyk, Will’s father. “He lived and breathed boxing, and I think he became known throughout his group of friends as a boxer.”

Boxers Dawson Williams (left), Luke Kalmakoff (centre) and Will Skopyk (right) pose for a photo at the Thomas Settee Boxing Club in October 2017. Skopyk was killed in a collision in July and on Wednesday, his family gave his championship belt, medal and a donation to the club that became his second home. — Herald file photo.

Although Will had a wide array of interests that included working on cars or outdoor activities like fishing and hiking, boxing was his main love. His coach, Bob Tichkowsky, remembered him as an enthusiastic boxing lover who became his coach’s understudy with the intent of becoming a trainer himself.

“He had a big heart,” Tichkowsky said after Wednesday’s ceremony. “He wouldn’t quit, was dedicated to the fullest (and) never missed a training session.”

Following the presentation, boxing, coaches and club supporters gathered for one last tribute to Will, a final 10-count from the ring-side bell.

However, Wednesday’s ceremony wasn’t just about honoring Will’s contributions to Saskatchewan boxing. His parents also presented a cheque to the club to help grow and develop the sport in the community.

Rod and Lisa say boxing had a tremendous impact on their son’s life, and they want other kids to have that opportunity too.

“It urged him to live a healthy lifestyle, clean and free of all the vices that a lot of teenagers were faced with,” Rod explained.

“There are a lot of funds available for various other sports, but boxing is a little less popular than, say, hockey,” Lisa added. “It’s a great sport, and we want to make sure that it continues and is there for everyone who’s interested in participating.”