Although they live in different countries, the American and Canadian boxers at May Park Community Center this weekend have a lot in common: they share a border, Niagara Falls, etc.
Yet it's what makes them different that brought them together for the seventh annual Ringside/Comcast Augusta International Junior Boys/Girls Summer Boxing Classic.
It is the first time that the Classic has expanded its participation eligibility beyond the United States.
The nations practice dissimilar boxing styles. U.S. fighters showcase professional tactics in the ring; their "neighbors to the north" use a style more suitable for the Olympics and other international competitions.
"It's good that they (the Canadians) are here," said Augusta Boxing Club director Tom Moraetes said Friday. "It's helping us out internationally, style-wise, because they're style is completely different. These kids that are here are seeing styles from Canada that they will see in pre-Olympic competition."
Moraetes said Canadian boxers are more technical, throwing more straight punches and reluctant to fight in close quarters, a point acknowledged by the coaches from Quebec and Ontario.
"It's the typical international style. They don't have that element of professionalism that we do," Moraetes said.
Although seeking out bouts from competitors outside the U.S. would be understandable -- especially when promoting an event -- it was the Canadian clubs that sought to participate in the event.
"It was a reward for our boxers who have been training hard all year," said Vinnie Ryan, coach of Team Ontario, based in Hamilton. "They got the chance to see part of the States that they had never seen before. So it was also partially educational."
For Hamilton native Rodolfo Velasquez, the surprise trip meant the chance to see family he normally wouldn't.
Velasquez, who will fight for a belt today in 15-16, 119-pound division, has El Salvadorian relatives living in Atlanta who made the trip to see him compete this weekend.
Event coordinators hope success this weekend could lead to the addition of more nations in years to come.
Moraetes is looking for future participation from South American and European nations.
Ryan said he has spoken to clubs in his native Ireland who are anxious to make the trip to the Garden City.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.