Remembing Ron Gallen, boxing coach and mentor to many
The local boxing community is mourning the loss of local boxing legend Ron Gallen and remembering the hundreds of lives he changed for the better.
Scott Copeland, who coached with Gallen at the Niagara Falls Boxing Club, recalls the transformations engineered by his mentor: Helping a kid overcome an addiction; aiding a fighter who came from an abusive home; sparking an overweight kid to become addicted to fitness; helping that introverted shy kid gain confidence; or, simply finding a young boxer a place to stay for a few days.
“It was his relationships with his fighters and the way he treated everyone the same. He went over and above for a lot of guys,” Copeland said. “Every kid took to him and looked up to him so much. He made their lives better not just when they were boxing but for the rest of their lives. You could see the results in school and in life.”
And he made good kids even better.
“Some of them were high achievers when they got there, but all of them were high achievers when they left,” Copeland said. “He was a humble man and he was selflessly there all the time. He did so much for the kids and community every day.”
Two-time Olympian Mike Strange, who was coached by Gallen in the late 1980s, echoes those comments.
“He was a great guy and people don’t realize until you become a coach how many volunteer and sometimes thankless hours you put in,” he said. “He put in thousands and thousands of hours and he helped kids in and out of the ring. He was a mentor to so many.”
In an interview in 2019 prior to his induction into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame, Gallen spoke of his love for boxing and the young kids he trained.
“You get to know them and you see them grow, and it’s great.”
The only downside to boxing was the ones that got away.
“You get kids and they have problems away from the gym and you try to help them,” he said. “They end up on the dark side and it’s not good because they are like your own kids. You try to do as much as you can in the limited time you have them.”
For Gallen, boxing was the perfect sport and he loved its one-on-one aspect of boxing.
“There are no teammates letting you down,” he said. “You are letting yourself down. I have all the respect in the world for anybody who steps in the ring whether they are good or not. They find out in a hurry.”
Copeland remembers Gallen trying to develop complete boxers.
“He started with the basics first. Everyone learned everything from jabbing, moving, moving after you punch, the correct way to hold your hands for defence, offence and countering,” he said. “He wasn’t going to change their styles but whatever style they used, they had to have the right technique.”
Strange recalls being schooled in those basics.
“That’s what he taught all his boxers,” he said. “He told me to work on the jab because it was the most important punch in boxing.”
Copeland was as much a student as a coach while helping Gallen at the Niagara Falls club.
“What made a big impact on me is that he said the club trained coaches as well as it trained boxers. I learned so much and he was my mentor.”
Copeland quickly learned not to challenge Gallen’s decisions.
“One fighter improved so much and I thought he was three for four months away from being ready for his first fight. Ron comes to me and tells me that he has a fight for the kid on the weekend. I was thinking he wasn’t quite ready yet and I voiced my concerns but Ron said he was ready. Didn’t this kid who couldn’t break a paper bag a couple of months earlier knock out his opponent in the second round. At that moment, I decided I would never second-guess Ron again.”
Gallen also had wise words for Strange.
“He always told me that I should have been fighting at a higher weight class and I should have listened to him because I used to have to cut so much weight,” he said. “He thought I would be better moving up a weight class and I eventually did.”
Gallen’s introduction to boxing came in 1980 at an amateur fight card in Fonthill. Gallen thought the officiating was terrible and after talking to coach Hank Boone, he decided to become a boxing official. His first event as an official was the Labatt’s Gloves in 1982 in Etobicoke.
When his son, Glen, decided he wanted to box, Gallen started helping John DeGazio coach at the Niagara Falls club. His coaching debut came at the 1986 provincial championships and he would become president and head coach of the non-profit club in 1987. He ended up coaching more than 150 competitive boxers, including Strange, Chuck Moscato, Eddie Dawson, Scottie Paul, Shawn Conlon and Tanner Warner. He coached several provincial champions, four national champions and two Ringside world champions.
He also coached many who just fought for the love of the sport.
“I have kids come up to me in the grocery store to say hello and I don’t even recognize them,” Gallen said in 2019.
He had a hard time choosing any one highlight for his career.
“I’ve been to lots of national championships and Ringside world championships and the pro fights were a lot of fun,” he said. “They’re serious.”
Gallen was also active in the boardroom, serving 13 years as an executive member with Boxing Ontario and six years on Boxing Canada’s Board of Directors as the Chief Official and Director of Niagara Region Boxing.
Copeland remembers the fine job Gallen did as Boxing Ontario’s president.
“Ron was all about doing the right thing all the time, especially when he was president,” he said. “He wanted the rules to be the same and fair for everyone.”
Among Gallen’s other accomplishments are: donating boxing equipment to Cuba; creating a Ladies Only Box Fit class in 2008; developing Rock Steady Boxing for people dealing with Parkinson’s disease and All for Niagara Falls; being named a Niagara Boxing Legend; and, being awarded Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow.
Gallen was honoured to be inducted into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame.
“That’s not why you do it. You do it because you love it, but when they stand back and tell you that you put in your time and you did a good job, that’s a nice feeling,” he said, back in 2019.
Gallen’s obituary described him as a man who filled a need without a second thought and he made every child and family feel welcome.
“Remember Ron with a good laugh, a crazy story, a good cigar and a beer, watching the Leafs,” his obituary read.