My perspective of Troy ‘The Boss’ Ross might be very different from the perspective of many others. To many people in the boxing community, Troy Ross is known to be one of the most devastating punchers to come out of Canada in the professional ranks, winning The Canadian and Commonwealth Title, The Contender reality TV show and having two unsuccessful shots at the World Title that most would say he was blatantly robbed in. Others might remember him as a 7 time Canadian Amateur Champion, two time Olympian (1996, 2000), and just an all around nice guy.
My experience with Troy has not only included the above, but my history goes back even further than that. You see, I started boxing at the young age of 5 years old at the Toronto Newsboys Boxing Club in 1979. In fact, a mini 8 minute documentary of me was done at that gym a few years later when I was 10 years old by a group of Ryerson students that you could view here by clicking this link.
I remember being the smallest kid in the gym that was ran by the legendary, Tony Unitas in the Queen and Augusta area of Toronto above a pool hall. My Dad would tell me not to hang out at that pool hall, but the funny thing was that the boxing gym above the pool hall had more wise guys, characters, and riff raff than anywhere else, but when you were in that boxing gym, it seemed like everybody’s outside lives were left at the door.
The first time that I ever saw Troy is as vivid in my mind as it was the day he walked into that gym. As a kid I used to see this older black gentleman that wore a green tank top with Guyana written on the back training at Newsboys. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I would later find out that he was a former Olympian, who represented Guyana at the 1968 Olympic Games, he was also the father of Troy Ross. One day, this man in the green tank top brought his two sons down to the gym, Troy and Shawn. I thought that they were twins at first, but one of them was slightly taller and a couple years older, that was Shawn. I immediately thought to myself, uh oh, looks like I’m going to have some competition in this gym!
Well, I only saw Troy and Shawn there a few times as their family would later move out to the Brampton area just outside of Toronto, where they’d eventually start their boxing careers. Both Troy and Shawn soon turned into rising stars in the amateur ranks. I would see the older Shawn knocking out opponents left and right, in fact, he was one of the most dangerous amateur fighters that I had ever seen and I was always excited to watch him box.
Eventually, the day would come when I found myself matched up with Shawn’s younger brother, Troy Ross, at the new Toronto Newsboys Boxing Club that had moved to the Parliament and Queen area of Toronto. The year was 1988, and there was the shorter and stockier Troy Ross from the Jamestown Boxing Club standing across from me in the ring. He probably was one of the first south paws that I had ever boxed. My Dad had seen his brother Shawn box numerous times as I had and told me to be cautious of his right hook as they both threw it hard. At that point in time, I had a lot more experience than Troy, but when you’re a younger kid, sometimes it’s strength and power that will beat out technique and skill.
Ding Ding, the bell rang and I started throwing out my speedy left jabs, but as I moved to the left with my jab, SWOOSH came this big right hook from the shorter Ross. I soon realized that I had to move to the right against Troy, because every time I moved to the left, BANG another right hook. You see, Troy’s best punch has always been his lead hand right hook, but as the years went on and he got more and more experienced, he became a lot better at disguising the fact that that was the punch that he would make opponents walk into.
The first round went by and I believe Troy more than likely won it as I was definitely put on notice, as he landed that lead right hook numerous times. I went back to my corner and my Dad told me to continually move right instead of left against the hard hitting Ross. Traditionally, against a southpaw, you should move to the left to stay away from the straight left hand, but Troy’s right hook was so powerful that it made sense to move right. As I sat on the stool, I looked across and I could see Troy’s Dad motioning with his right hook the punch to throw. DING DING, Round 2 started and it was a much better round for me, I was moving right, throwing my jab and landing my right hand and even my left hook, definitely that round was mine, no doubt about it.
It was the third and final round, one of us would win this fight in this round, but I forgot what my Dad had told me the previous round and proceeded to move left, BOOM, Troy’s right hook landed hard, but that quickly woke me up and I started moving right, BING BING, I landed my jab, right hand, Troy retaliated again with his right hook, me with jab right hand. It was toe to toe in that third round, I was 14 years old and Troy was 13 years old and we both only weighed about 115lbs, but it was an all out war. We were going at it, the crowd that was packed in were loud as always and the both us were exhausted throwing punches right to the final bell.
We shook hands, I went to his corner and shook hands with his Dad and Troy went to my corner and shook hands with my Dad and then the referee stood us in the middle of the ring for the decision. Tony Unitas on the microphone announced the decision in his twangy deep voice, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a split decision, 2-1, the winner in the BLUE corner, TROY ROSS’! At that moment, my head sunk down, my shoulders dropped, and the smile I had on my face turned to a frown, Troy Ross, the kid that I saw walk into my gym only a few years earlier had beaten me in my gym.
A year or so would pass and Troy would go on to win the Canadian Junior National Championships at the weight of 126lbs, but he was a growing boy and when they had a competition later in the year in Marquette, Michigan to fight Team USA, his Dad didn’t let him go, because he could no longer make the 126lbs weight class. That opened up the opportunity for me to have my first International fight, replacing Troy and fighting against Team USA, the feeling was amazing as I put my Canadian uniform.
So, as the years continued to fly by, I would see Troy and his brother Shawn boxing at the same tournaments as I did, but Troy was always heavier than me and I would never face him again, at least in a sanctioned amateur boxing match. In 1993, I went to my first senior National Championships and won a Silver medal in the 165lbs middleweight division. I only weighed 159lbs in that 165lbs division, but never forced myself to make weight, so when we had the Ontario Championships, I elected to fight in the heavier 165lbs division than just losing a few pounds and go down to 156lbs. At 18 years old, I was still a growing boy, so it made sense to my Dad and I not to drop down to the 156lbs weight class.
It’s funny, because as Troy’s Dad didn’t want to force his son to make weight as a young boxer, my Dad also never forced me to make weight, he always just said to box at the weight you felt comfortable at. Going back to that final match at the 1993 National Championships, I felt that Ron Donaldson, the Quebec fighter and future two time Olympian that I had fought was just too strong for me in that final match, so I made a point to get physically stronger. I went back to the gym, but not only was I boxing, I started lifting heavy weights, drinking protein shakes, doing everything I could to get stronger, but I soon found myself putting on weight very quickly.
I was weighing 170lbs by mid year and was now in the light heavyweight division. If I were to stay in this division, I’d have to beat the Canadian Champion Dale Brown and Troy Ross. It was one of the toughest divisions in amateur boxing at the time in Canada and I was fully prepared to enter the proceeding National Championships in the light heavyweight division, but something happened in the gym that year that made me change my mind.
It was 1994 at Atlas Boxing Gym that was located at the time in Toronto’s west end, my coach was Adrian Teodorescu, whom was also training the former Heavyweight Olympian, Tom ‘The Bomb’ Glesby. I used to spar Tom at least 2 or 3 times a week, he was much bigger and stronger, but it was great for me and I was constantly learning.
Occasionally, other boxers from other gyms came down to spar, and for a period of time, the National Intermediate Champion, Steve Gallagher from St. Catherines would come down to spar with Tom, but at the same time, I was thrown into the mix and would also spar with Gallagher. I was only weighing about 170lbs, but I was continually beating the bigger and stronger Heavyweight Galllagher to the punch. Remember, when i say Heavyweight, I’m talking about the 91kg division Heavyweight (Cruiserweight in the pros) and not the Super Heavyweight division.
So, I thought to myself, this Steve Gallagher is probably the best fighter in Canada at the Heavyweight Division and I’m beating him. Do I stay in the Light Heavyweight Division and box the hard hitting Troy Ross or the highly skilled Canadian Champion Dale Brown, or do I even put on a few more pounds and fight in the Heavyweight Division and fight Steve Gallagher. Well, the protein shakes were spinning on a regular basis and I was lifting even more weights than ever, so by the time the following National Championships arrived, I was now a heavyweight weighing just 181lbs, barely getting into the heavyweight division.
I had gone from 159lbs in the previous National Championships to weighing 22lbs heavier the following year. I was now a Heavyweight , beating Steven Gallagher as I thought I would at the Ontario Championships and once again winning a Silver Medal at the National Championships. Troy and myself would travel with one another to various International tournaments all over the world over the next few years. I became a multi year National Champion as did Troy and in 1998, I moved gyms, to train along side Troy with his coach at the time, Dewith Frazer. We would push each other in the gym, running and sprinting in the mornings, and sparring in the evening, and by doing sobecame closer and better friends than ever as we travelled the world on the National Team.
We’d compete at the Francophone Games, The World Championships, The Commonwealth Games, and finally the Olympic Games along with several other tournaments rooming together. Troy would complain that I was too messy and I would complain because he was too neat. His clothes were all folded precisely, he would take forever to ensure that the folds were perfect, whereas, i’d just throw my clothes on the ground and mess up the room just to piss him off.
After the Olympics, I pretty much retired, after boxing for almost 21 years, the motivation and drive had gone. I actually had one fight a year later after the Olympics, but I never trained for it and in fact soon realized that I didn’t even want to be there, so I knew that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I’d watch Troy start off in his pro career continually having issues with getting fights and problems with management. In 2004, I had heard that Troy got a part in a movie and was over in Australia along with fellow Olympic teammate, Arthur Binkowski. I have to admit that I was quite jealous that two of my former Olympic teammates got roles in this movie and I didn’t.
However, my luck would change as at some point, Ron Howard, the director had requested that they needed another heavyweight boxer for the movie. Troy insisted that they call me and a couple weeks later, I was in Australia along with Troy and Arthur training for our parts in the movie, Cinderella Man. Three former Canadian Olympians would be reunited to have feature roles in a Hollywood Blockbuster movie starring Russell Crowe, how cool was that? We would train with Russell, eat three meals a day with him and stay at his guest house in Coffs Harbour, Australia. In addition, we’d hang out with legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, the trainer of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and so many other world champions on a daily basis.
We flew back to Canada and as they transformed the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto to make it look like Madison Square Gardens in New York City, we filmed our parts in the movie Cinderella Man. Art Binkowski played Corn Griffin, Troy would play John Henry Lewis, and I would play Art Lasky. It was a lot of hard work, but one of the best times that I ever had in my life, which also led to other roles for both myself and Troy in future movies and commercials. However, Troy’s passion for boxing would continue with his journey of becoming a World Champion, so he continued to pursue his career.
Troy would later get the opportunity to box on Season IV of The Contender, the TV reality series that was hosted by Tony Danza. I flew out to witness Troy in the finals, where he took the field of 16 boxers down to the final two and knocked out Hino Ehikhamenor to win the Contender Season IV series. I remember how nervous I was the day of the fight as I ate lunch with him, but he usually was before matches, relaxed like no other. I could hardly eat my food, but Troy gulped it all down and became a Champion once again.
Troy would later go on to fight in two very controversial World Title fights in Germany, both marred by decisions that weren’t just. His first title experience was against Steve “USS” Cunningham, in which he was controlling the fight in the first three rounds and boxing perfect. In round 4, Troy would open up and knock the champion to the canvas, Cunningham would get back up and not even 10 seconds later would throw a jab, leading with the thumb portion of his glove, splitting Troy Ross’ eye wide open. The fight would end and the decision was a TKO victory for Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham. It was unjust and definitely deserved to be a mandatory rematch, but as with the sport of boxing, politics got in the way and Cunningham did everything in his power to avoid fighting Troy again. You can see in this video that I made leading up to Troy Ross’ second World Title Shot against Yoan Pablo Hernandez of Cuba the highlights and controversy of that first World Title fight.
Troy’s World Title shot against Yoan Pablo Hernandez would also end in controversy. The German fans in attendance would boo the decision as the German promoted Hernandez won a Unaminous decision despite being knocked to the canvas in the 5th round, barely surviving, and outclassed by the better Troy Ross. Troy took some time off after that fight after being burned by the boxing gods for a second time in a row, but how can you blame him.
Our friendship together has remained strong throughout the years, most recently, Troy and his wife Alison asked me to be the Godfather of their second daughter Tory. I could not have thought of a bigger honour which truly shows the rapport that we have carried over the years and will many years into the future.