NEW GLASGOW – Time has not dimmed the memories and the esteem held by boxers trained by Sparky Paris.
Some, like Archie Lee, spent less time in the gym Paris operated at the end of Granville Street. Others longer there, like Reg MacLean, who is grateful for Paris’s influence and example.
They were there, as well as former Maritime light-heavyweight champion Joe Borden, to gather with those who honoured Paris on the occasion of his retirement from more than 60 years of cleaning up properties in the local area.
“Sparky was every man’s man,” MacLean said. “He was like a father to everyone. He means the world to us.”
MacLean remembered how Paris kept the boxers who trained with him focused on the task at hand, including hiring boxers to work with him.
“He gave me a job,” he said. “He taught us respect. Sparky was the best trainer around. When you came to train, you trained.”
Paris himself started boxing in 1942 and trained his way into the 135-pound limit for the lightweight division.
“I got into 25 fights and won quite a few,” he recalled. “I was knocked down a good many times but never knocked out.”
Besides Borden, MacLean and Lee, boxers Paris trained included Bearcat Jackson and Jo Jo Jackson among the more than 40 boxers working at his gym over the years.
The gym doubled as a dance hall on Friday nights to help keep the boxers occupied.
“It was good to be here,” said Lee, who trained with Paris for three years before moving on to train at the Stadacona gym in Halifax with the late Tom McClusky. “I wanted to make sure I was here to see Sparky.”