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Spruce Capital boxer Harvey gets first taste of fight action

Sixteen-year-old welterweight loses decision to Josh Zackarias at Rumble 32 in Quesnel

Liam Harvey grew up playing hockey but was never a fighter.

Not until he started hanging out with the gang at Spruce Capital Boxing Club.

He joined the club about a year ago and started training with Spruce Capital head coach Wayne Sponagle.

Sponagle has been kept busy in the Spruce Capital gym, tuning the 16-year-old Harvey up for his first boxing match, which happened Saturday in Quesnel at the Rumble 32 fight card.

Harvey, fighting as a 152-pound welterweight, lost a unanimous three-round decision to Josh Zackarias of Prince George, representing the The Wolf Den gym.

Harvey has been training as the Spruce Capital gym for about a year-and-a-half and knew early on he wasn't just in it to get in great shape.

“I’ve been training here four times a week,” said the Grade 11 Duchess Park Secondary School student.

“A friend came here a little bit and told me about it so I came here and just got hooked on it. At first it was just training, but after the first two weeks I realized if I get good enough I want a fight.

“It gives you confidence, but also keeps your ego in check. You get tough guys coming in here and they realize they’re not the toughest person in the world.”

Harvey has no shortage of tough guys to spar with at the Spruce Capital gym in the basement of Best Buy electronics store, and they hit hard.

“Sometimes it hurts but I’m getting used to it,” he said. “My nose is a little bit squishy but it hasn’t been broken yet.”

He was never a street fighter but he’s seen a couple after-school rumbles during his time at Duchess Park.

“Sometimes people  put on boxing gloves and go into the alley and scrap,” he said. “Sometimes the old people who live close to there will come out to the alley to watch. Maybe every month, people who don’t like each other and they’ll go there to box.”

Harvey says he won’t have any trouble making his weight class at the pre-fight weigh-ins. He’s no stranger to the weight room and there’s not much fat on his lean and muscular frame, so it’s easy for him to maintain his weight.

Boxing has taught him the benefits of clean living and healthy eating (no junk food) and watermelon is a big part of his daily diet.

“It’s the only fruit I can snack on and feel satisfied, I just like it,” he said.

Sponagle says as long as he sticks to the game plan in his fight and does what he’s been trained to do, Harvey will find success Saturday in the ring.

“He’s a really nice kid, and he’s going to be an awesome little fighter, I’m telling ya,” said Spongale. “I started training him in September and of all the boys I’ve got in gym he adapted to my style quicker than the other boys did. He’s very coachable."

One other Spruce Capital boxer, light heavyweight Devlin Dwindel, was also on the Quesnel fight card. The 16-year-old Dwindel has just one fight on his boxing resume which happened in April in Calgary when he lost a three-round 3-2 decision. As it turned out his match in Quesnel against Peo Scott of Daweson Creek was downgraded to a sparring match. The referee stopped it in the second round after Devlin landed a flurry of punches.

Dwindel, a southpaw, joined Spruce Capital in September. He’s had to balance his boxing workouts with his football practices with the College Heights Cougars as a right tackle/defensive end.

“He’s a really good kid with very high potential,” said Sponagle, referring to Dwindel boxing skills.

Sponagle, 78, is in his 58th year training boxers. The granddaddy of the local ring says it’s not just seeing his fighters connecting with their punches and ducking haymakers that keeps him coming back for more. It’s the satisfaction of seeing fighters he trained coming back years later to tell him how he changed their lives for the better.

“I’ve met so many good people, that 58 years had been very rewarding to me,” said Sponagle.

“Kids need an outlet. I found out at a certain time in that kid’s life that boxing played such an important role. I’ve got lawyers, I’ve got school teachers, I’ve got guys in every profession in life who phone me and thank me for what I did for them.

“That’s kids that were in trouble with drugs. That’s kids that were taking their first steps to being alcoholics. My response to them is, ‘hey man, don’t thank me, look at yourself, you’re the one that did it. I was just a vehicle there that helped move you to the right path.’”

Three Inner City Boxing Club fighters represented Prince George in the ring at Rumble 32.

In a three-round lightweight (135 pound) bout, Josh Greenwood lost a decision to James Samra of Abbotsford.

Cartel Niedermayer and Thunder Innis of Inner City engaged in sparring matches as part of the Quesnel card.