Local boxers prove Tuff Enuff at annual competition

Matt Gardner
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Prince Albert was ready to rumble last Saturday night.

Area boxers and thousands of fans flocked to the Art Hauser Centre for the 12th annual R U Tuff Enuff event, which pits amateur fighters against each other in an all-out battle for pugilistic dominance.

“What we do is we invite people to come out and see if ‘R U Tuff Enuff,’” event co-chair Joel Longworth said. “If they can win three fights in one night, then they can win a prize, and the prize is $2,000.

“We have three men’s divisions -- heavyweight, middleweight and lightweight -- and we have one open women’s division.”

Among Saturday’s winners, Staci Obchansky won the women’s division for the second year in a row, beating local fighter Marcie Burns.

In the men’s divisions, Jeremiah Hill won the lightweight competition after defeating Cory Bear, Bret Anderson beat out Travis Mackie in the middleweight division, and Yowi Naytowhow was crowned heavyweight champion after defeating Fred Maurice.

R U Tuff Enuff is a joint venture between the Kinsmen Club of Prince Albert and Ringside Fitness, which split the proceeds 50/50 to fund their activities. Ringside uses its share each year to support the Prince Albert Boxing Club.

Turnout on Saturday was average, with an estimated 1,900 spectators attending. The event generally attracts between 1,600 and 2,400 people each time.

A grand total of 28 fighters took on this year’s challenge, out of a maximum of 32 available slots. R U Tuff Enuff uses standard boxing rules, but there are some differences compared to professional bouts.

“These guys are wearing the oversized gloves,” Longworth said. “The pros wear, I believe, eight-ounce gloves. We are 16-ounce gloves. So they’re bigger, they’re more padded and they’re heavier, which means they’re harder to swing and the guys tire out quicker.”

Unlike male fighters, who are categorized according to different weight classes, the open format of the women’s division means that lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight women may be thrown against opponents with significant physical differences.

Longworth said many fans appreciate the greater unpredictability of the female boxing matches.

“A lot of people really like the women’s fights because they go for it,” he said. “There tends to be a little less tactics and more swinging, whereas some of the middleweights and heavyweights on the guys’ side have a little more tactics.”

A lot of people really like the women’s fights because they go for it. Joel Longworth

For his part, Longworth -- who has attended the last eight R U Tuff Enuff events -- is often too busy running around supervising the event to catch much boxing.

Still, he has his preferences.

“I like watching the lightweights,” Longworth said. “They’re little guys and they move real fast and you never know what’s going to happen next, so I like those ones the best.”

One of the lightweight fighters on Saturday was 19-year-old Preston Almightyvoice of One Arrow First Nation, who was competing at R U Tuff Enuff for the first time. He previously tried out for the event in 2012, but was refused then on account of his age.

What he lacked in experience, the novice fighter more than made up for in enthusiasm.

“I want to show everybody that I can fight,” Almightyvoice said as he waited backstage for his match. “No one thinks I can fight -- I want to show everyone I can fight.”

To prepare for the event, he engaged in an intensive training regimen that included pushups, situps, dips, benching and working with both speed bags and heavier punching bags.

Aware of his limitations, Almightyvoice had a strategy in mind for turning them into strengths.

“I’m probably going to be the smallest guy in my division,” he said. “So I’m planning on keeping it close and aggressive -- ducking under the jab and right cross, and getting in close.”

Fights on Saturday started at 6 p.m. and lasted for more than four hours. A hundred-strong team of volunteers helped keep the event running, tending bar and serving patrons.

Over the years, R U Tuff Enuff has gained an enthusiastic following among area residents.

“The fans love it,” Longworth said. “We’ve got 95 tables on the floor and they sell out every year, and then we usually get a thousand people in the stands … People talk about it all year long and in the … three months’ leadup to it, everybody’s talking about it. There’s a real buzz to it.”

Attending R U Tuff Enuff has become a yearly tradition for many fans, such as Kinsmen Club members Brennen Smith and Allan Court.

“I think this is our fourth year coming,” Court said.

Smith made no bones about the main attraction: “It’s fun to come out and watch the fights.”

Organizations: Art Hauser Centre, Kinsmen Club of Prince Albert and Ringside Fitness, Prince Albert Boxing Club

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