Contrary to popular belief, Ray Napper Jr.
did not treat the doctor who delivered him to a combination of jabs and uppercuts after being welcomed into the world with a slap on the bottom.
In Welland, the name Napper is synonymous with boxing, but he
never felt any pressure growing up to major in the sweet science.
The approach taken by Ray Sr., his
grandfather and the founder of Napper's Boxing Club
, and Jeff, his
father, was decidedly gloves off when it came to which sports Ray Jr. wanted to play - if he
wanted to compete in any at all.
"They never pressured me at all.
They didn't have it, I wanted to do it," said Napper
, now 27 and the successor to his
grandfather and father as head coach of the club that bears the family name.
Like boxing, which he
took up when he
12 and compiled an 18-4 record before retiring from the ring seven years later, gravitating toward coaching is another thing that came naturally to Napper
regards working from the sidelines as "just the next step" in his
"I knew that I would get further in coaching that in competing.
After I won the Canadians (in 2004), I no passion to compete.
That was it for me," said Napper
, the Gil Beaulieu Memorial Trophy recipient as Welland's coach of the year for 2011.
The Centennial Secondary School graduate's coaching career officially began when he
was 18 and started helping his
father, then the club's head coach.
began working with his
fellow fighters long before he
had a seat in the corner of the ring.
"I always helped out when I was competing.
I was always that voice in everybody's ear when they made a mistake and I thought I could help them out," recalled Napper
, who boxed from 1997 until 2004 and never lost a fight in Welland.
Now that he's
had ample time to compare training fighters to competing in the ring, there's "no comparison" to which takes a greater toll as far as the Welland native is concerned.
"Coaching is harder.
As a coach, you have to worry that all your boxers are prepared to fight.
It's just not about being ready yourself."
Napper goes out of his way to praise his fighters after a solid effort - "That's where all the credit is due, and rightly so," he emphasized - but he doesn't shirk responsibility when a Napper's boxer comes up short because of a lack of preparation.
"I get more nervous for them than I ever was for myself.
It's my teachings at work out there in the ring," he
Keeping a boxer off a fight card has happened three times since Napper became head coach, but in each instance the fighters didn't let their hard feelings push them out the door.
, the coaching award completed a daily double at the sports banquet.
The club also went home with the Harpwood's Trophies Trophy as the senior team of the year for 2011.
considers both honours "team awards," especially his
trophy as top coach.
"All of the credit belongs to the team.
Very little of that (the coaching award) reflects on me. It's just my name on it," he
Picton likes that Napper
doesn't pull any punches "just because I'm a girl."
"When you get into the gym he
says 'You're not a girl, you're just a boxer.' I like that."
Pouli sometimes finds that Napper
can be "tough" and "demanding" as a coach, but never to the point of asking more than the boxers are capable of giving.
Fighter Julia DiMarcantonio likes that Napper is a keen-eyed observer who sees all from the sidelines whenever the boxers work out at the club.
Praise for Napper's
isn't limited to the Welland Sports Promotion Committee