Hamilton’s Nick Farrell has had boxing in his blood as long as he can remember. He recalls when he was 9 or 10 when his father would drive him from their home in Ajax for training sessions at the famous Cabbagetown Boxing Centre in Toronto—the same club that launched the career of Shawn O’Sullivan. “My dad used to drive me every day to the club. He was relentless, he made me realize you have to sacrifice,” recalls Nick. Showing promise Nick went to another boxing school when he was 12. He kept getting better as he entered his teens. In all he sparred about 40 or 50 rounds with Donavan Boucher—Canadian and Commonwealth welterweight champ and learned how to take serious body shots. “ At that time I was a boy fighting men,” says Nick who feels his greatest attribute was his speed. . From there it was a steady progression up the ladder as Nick started to dream about the Olympics—Novice Champion, Ontario Open Champion and finally at age 16 Nick was named to the National Boxing team.
Fighting as a 156 pounder Nick finished second in 1993 and 1994. Pneumonia sidelined him in 1995 but in 1996 Nick was the light middleweight Canadian champion and on his way to the Olympics that year in Atlanta. Regrettably success did not follow Nick to Atlanta. He came down with what turned out to be mono although he didn’t know what was wrong with him when he stepped into the ring with Kazakhstan’s Yermakhan Ibraimov. “I felt tired, but I didn’t want to tell my coach. It took me 10 years to get here. From my first combination I knew something was wrong—my energy was sapped.” Fighting gamely, Nick says he put up a great fight and had Ibraimov on the run in the third round but he lost on points to the Kazahk who went on to be a bronze medal winner.
Still a member of the Canadian Boxing team, Nick was Canadian champion in 1998 and finished second in 1999.
But In September 1999 just a week after Nick had won a bout that would have made him the 2000 Champ, Nick’s boxing career ended abruptly when, as he said, “I got hurt.” The “hurt” which Nick is reluctant to discuss, was a severe beating that he says was laid on him by Hamilton police after a routine check escalated into violence. Nick and some friends were on the second level gardens at Jackson Square where Nick was selling music tapes, a business Nick had recently been developing, when police arrived and began rousting them, apparently suspecting drug activity. It was 1999 and there were no regulations controlling “carding” at that time; and here were three African-Canadians hanging about. Protests of innocence only escalated the situation, and after a lull, the altercation was resumed in front of a King Street East dollar store where Nick says he was repeatedly kicked and punched by police in front of a large crowd of onlookers. A female officer grabbed his testicles. Nick suffered severe injuries to his spine and knees, the effects of which leave him in constant pain today and left him trying to support a family despite his disabilities. He keeps his hand in the boxing business by providing one-on-one coaching to up-and-comers.
In the intervening years Nick has tried his hand at a number of businesses, a jewellery store and a water softening franchise; but it has been a tough go. What he would really like to do is set up a boxing program for youth so he can pass on the life lessons and discipline that he received as a student of the ‘sweet science.” Local MP Dave Christopherson and MPPs Andria Horwath and Paul Miller have written letters of endorsement when Nick was nominated for the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame by David Surwatur. Nick has had a few short-term coaching opportunities with local youth groups, but ‘nothing permanent,” he says. “I just want a chance to share my knowledge.” Through all the tough times he credits his daughter Trunika, now in her 20’s who was born when Nick was just 16, for keeping him focused. “She is my inspiration,” Nick says.