Editor’s note: Tony Duffy was elected to the B.C. Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame late in 2012 in the junior/youth category. The following is a history of Duffy’s rise in boxing and his mark in the sport on the Sunshine Coast.
It took almost two months of taunting Grade 7 teacher Barry Krangle in 1981 before he buckled and gave Tony Duffy and classmates a crack at starting a boxing club in the school gym just outside Gibsons.
A couple of months later, the Sunshine Coast Boxing Club’s debut at a Queensbury Club Show saw the likes of Duffy, Tyler Pearl, Gordie Fallis and Brad Jennens rack up their first wins.
The following season, the club boasted six bronze gloves finalists and a couple of champs, including Duffy, whose slick, elusive style earned him kudos for the best prospect. Following Emerald and Silver Gloves Championships, Duffy went on to win his first provincial title in 1983.
Life in the open class got a little tougher for Duffy in early ‘84, losing decisions to the more experienced and polished Tony Francis, the smooth left hooker from Langley, and Scott Galloway, from Richmond Boxing Club, renowned for his relentless offence.
Duffy avenged his loss to Galloway at the Kent Maximum Security Prison Smoker. And smoker it was: heavy wafts of smoke hung in the air from the chain-smoking inmates making it tough to get a fresh breath between rounds.
“Our host-chaperon was a guy doing double life for murder and killing a guard,” Duffy recalled. “I’ll never forget when he asked me where I was from. Gibsons, hummm, the inmate told us. I went up there to rob a bank once; it was way too quiet so we just broke into a bunch of houses and went home.”
Back in the gym, Duffy stepped up his training and enriched his repertoire to become a slick counter puncher with a barrage of snappy combinations and a respectable left hook.
Following Jr. Golden Boy honours in the spring of ‘84 by defeating both Francis and Galloway, Duffy went on to capture a silver medal in the junior nationals, losing a close decision to Quebec’s Jeff Belliveau.
Teaming up with Frankie Scott and the Queensborough crew, Krangle, Duffy and Sunshine Coast boxers spent hours on the road racking up all sorts of experience in Kelso, Eugene, Seattle, California and Tacoma.
Above and beyond their regular club workouts, Krangle remembers bolting to the 3:30 p.m. ferry at least once a week to blast into the city to spar with Astoria’s Olympian Dale Walters.
“After a few rounds with Dale, we’d jump in the car and rip down to the Shamrock Gym, Main and Hastings, just in time to mix it up with the rangy lightweight contender, Tony Pep. The contrast of styles between Dale and Tony was the best schooling we could find,” Krangle said.
The 1985 highlight was avenging the loss against Belliveau and going on to win the junior Canadian nationals. The 1985 B.C. team, coached by Johnny Phillips and Krangle, voted the nation’s best province, also boasted gold medals from Kevin Lyons, Justin Mignault, Troy Bannick and Troy Taylor, and silvers from Paul Deluca and Aaron Wolfe.
Earning his fourth consecutive provincial title in 1986, Duffy lost in the Intermediate National finals to Ontario’s Johnny Walker.
In 1987, Duffy regained his national champion status at the televised Canada Games in Sydney, N.S. and was awarded a berth on the national team where Duffy won a gold medal at the European Invitational Championships in Tampere, Finland, and got all revved up for the junior world championships in Havana, Cuba.
After defeating the Bulgarian, the Puerto Rican and the Swede, Duffy lost to Eamon Laughran, a scrappy Irishman in the quarter-finals and brought home a bronze medal.
A bronze medal in the world championships was cause for the Town of Gibsons to celebrate. Local merchants and supporters built a ring float for the parade. For just one dollar you could step into the ring with Duffy for 30 seconds. If you landed a scoring blow, you got your money back.
Duffy’s unexpected victory over the tough, hard-hitting welterweight Ron Paske from the Astoria Boxing Club at the 1988 Vancouver Golden Gloves earned Duffy a berth for the 1988 Seoul Olympic trials in Edmonton, Alta. Duffy was outpointed by Nick Rupa, who in turn lost to local Vancouver star and future Olympian, Manny Sobrel.
Duffy decided to take a little break from boxing and go backpacking around Europe. When he stumbled across a boxing gym in Frankfurt, Germany, and stepped into the ring and boxed circles around the current European welterweight champion, he was immediately housed, clothed and listed as a starter on the defending European Championship Bundesliga tournament team.
Duffy, seven-time provincial champion, three-time national champ, Golden Boy, Diamond Boy, European Champion, World Championships (bronze medalist), attributes a lot of his success to the incredible support that came from Gibsons.
“My friends and family used to charter a boat into Horseshoe Bay and hired vans just to take them to the fights,” Duffy said. “The BC Boxing Association was so supportive, providing so many amazing opportunities like the Canada/U.S. Best Ever tournaments. I’m still friends with so many of the guys I fought and trained with. We had the best times.”
Duffy, an accredited real estate appraiser, is currently a property rep for BC Hydro. He lives in Gibsons with his wife Trina and their two daughters, Kiah and Faye.