Canadian boxer Fitz “The Whip” Vanderpool has faced many challenges inside and out of the squared circle.
But since retiring in 2006 after a 12-year professional career, the owner of Vanderpool Fitness & Boxing (www.vanderpoolfitness.com) located in The Tannery building in downtown Kitchener has set his sights on a whole new type of challenge — providing troubled youth with some much needed guidance.
Vanderpool, 43, has taken his fighting name “The Whip” and turned it into the gym’s inspirational moniker: With Hope It’s Possible.
“I always had to struggle and work hard to prove myself. Nobody believed in me or would give me a chance. I had to overcome all that stuff to be successful,” recalls Vanderpool.
“I know that there are a lot of younger kids out there who are telling themselves or believing that their not good enough, that they need a big family unit to support them to be successful.
“But if you believe in yourself and set a goal for yourself, with hope it’s possible.”
And Vanderpool knows a little about defying the odds.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, he was the middle of five boys who all took up amateur boxing upon arriving in Canada in 1972. They quit in 1984, but watching the 1988 Olympics invigorated “The Whip” to give the sport another try.
Professionally, he went on to win championships with the Canadian Professional Boxing Federation, World Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council.
“I only had my trainer. My poppa Joe was who I had believing in me … chasing and pushing me to be successful. I want to be that to these youngsters.”
Vanderpool has started to get the message across to an In Reach group of gang-affiliated, troubled youth that he’s been working with this year. The group — roughly half a dozen youths aged 16 to 19 — meets weekly to discuss goals and get some frustration out on the boxing bags.
“Before and during workouts I talk to them about setting life goals and having life skills,” said Vanderpool. “Just giving them positive reinforcement as far as things they have to do in their everyday life.”
Vanderpool believes the gym is a great learning tool because just as in life you only get out as much as the work you put in.
“I want to be there for these kids and let them know they can be successful.”
He says he wants them to know that “they don’t necessarily need both a mom and a dad; they don’t need a whole family unit behind them pushing them towards success because I never had that myself,” said Vanderpool.
“If they believe in themselves and they’re willing to work hard, they can accomplish those goals.”
Having Fitz “The Whip” Vanderpool in their corner can only help.
Vanderpool Fitness & Boxing will be hosting a show with boxers from across the province on March 19 to raise funds for the gym.
For more information, visit www.fitzthewhip.com or contact (519) 577-7910.
By Ryan Young