Former Olympic and Commonwealth boxer Mike Strange brought his Box Run to Amherst on Monday, speaking to students at West Highlands Elementary.
AMHERST – A year ago, former Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallist boxer Mike Strange made a commitment to a young friend who was fighting a battle against cancer.
Strange promised 12-year-old Matteo Mancini just before he died that he would continue his legacy by finishing his cross-country run just two years after completing the first half that started where Terry Fox’s relay ended in Thunder Bay, Ont. and wrapped up in Victoria, B.C.
“The first time I ran I did it for a young boy who had the same type of cancer that Terry Fox had. Matteo lost his leg just before the run and he was the poster child for the run,” Strange said. “I’ve seen first-hand what children like Matteo go through when battling cancer. No parent should have to witness that – it’s not the right order of life.
“Running a marathon is nothing compared to what children with cancer endure every single day of their lives.”
Money from the run will go to McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in Hamilton, Ont. and Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada.
Mancini took part in the first part of the run in Thunder Bay and then came out again in Winnipeg, but by the time Strange made it to Regina he got the news that the cancer had spread to Mancini’s lungs and he wouldn’t be able to continue.
While he thought about giving up, a phone call from Mancini inspired him to continue what he started and Strange dipped both his legs in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, B.C. – one for Fox and the other for Mancini.
Mancini lost his battle with cancer and passed away in May 2013. Strange was a pallbearer at Mancini’s funeral and pledged to run again this summer.
He started in St. John’s, N.L. on May 8, the one-year anniversary of Matteo’s death, and he stopped at West Highlands Elementary in Amherst on Monday as he made his way into New Brunswick.
He plans to run the equivalent of a marathon every day for 90 days until wrapping up the run in Thunder Bay later this summer.
“I wake up each day and put one foot in front of the other,” he said. “I don’t think about how far I have to go, but I think of the kids that are suffering. There are times I have felt like quitting. In Newfoundland the weather was so cold that I almost had hypothermia. But, I keep thinking of Matteo and what other children are going through and it keeps me going.”
He said a doctor in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. told him he needed to take a break, but he continued on and the weather improved when he arrived in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Strange is an 11-time Canadian boxing champion and he represented Canada at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics. In 1994, he won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and was named Canada’s boxer of the year in 1995.
He won gold again at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia in 1998 and retired from the ring a year later.