T H E E D M O N T O N S U N • T h urs d a y , Ma y 2 5 , 2006

life sty le 6 1

85-year-old pulls no punches to stay active
CARY CASTAGNA
“Not that I want to, but if somebody started attacking me, I think I’d know how to handle myself,” says the five-foot-seven 145-pounder. Most importantly for McColl, an air force pilot during the Second World War, boxing has provided him with a new and worthwhile challenge in his twilight years. “It seemed to me that for a guy to go into a ring with three-minute rounds, and do eight, 10, 12 (rounds), the guy has to be in superlative condition,” says McColl, who decided to try his hand at the sport circa 1999 while vacationing in Maui. McColl was pumping iron at Gold’s Gym there when he stumbled across an adjacent workout room for boxers. He ended up joining the boxers for several workouts during his Hawaiian vacation. He chuckles when remembering his first try at getting through three minutes of padpunching. “I lasted two minutes and 50 sec– Hugh McColl onds,” he recalls. “My arms fell. I couldn’t hold them up any longer.” When he returned to Edmonton, he began boxing in the evenings at Cougar Gym in Little Italy under longtime local trainer Larry Fleming. A few years later, he switched to Panther Gym because the hours were more convenient for him. McColl, who has led an active life with varied physical pursuits including 40 years of jogging, supplements his boxing with twice weekly, hour-long weightlifting workouts at Hardcore Gym under the watchful eye of a personal trainer. McColl, whose past physical exploits include racing sailboats, downhill skiing and scuba diving, believes variety really is the spice of life. “You don’t want to get stale just doing the same thing all the time,” he explains. The Montreal native, who grew up in Toronto and moved to Edmonton when he was 33 to launch his car dealership, also strives for balance in his diet. He says he consumes a variety of foods, always making sure to not eat excessively. Ever the role model, McColl advises seniors who are looking to get into shape to find a physical activity they enjoy – from boxing to walking – and do it. He shudders to think what kind of shape he’d be in if it weren’t for his healthy lifestyle. “A lot of people don’t do anything,” he says. “Some of them live a long time, but the average says, ‘No, you’re not going to live a long time and you’re not going to be healthy and happy.’ ” You certainly won’t be boxing at 85. It’s more likely you’re going to be on the canvas, down for the count.
– Do you have an inspirational story for Keeping Fit? E-mail Cary Castagna at ccastagna@edmsun.com.

Whole lot of fight left
‘My family think I’m nuts.’

EDITOR: Sally Johnston

PHONE: 468-0115

FAX: 468-0139 E-MAIL: sjohnston@edmsun.com

P

anther Gym owner Benny Swanson always has a good laugh when wannabe pugilists in their 20s phone him and ask if they’re too old to start boxing. Swanson points to his oldest protege – retired car dealer Hugh McColl, who turned 85 years old last week – as proof that it’s never too late to lace up a pair of boxing gloves and learn the sweet science. “It’s all about desire and drive,” Swanson says, calling the elderly boxer an inspiration. McColl, who has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, began training as a boxer just seven years ago, back when he was a spry 78 years old. Beyond sparring during his weekly hour-long workouts, McColl says he has no intentions of actually fighting. “I told Benny the only time I’d fight anybody would be if it was for charity and if I was fighting three rounds with George Foreman,” he says with a hearty laugh. However, McColl does get physical when sparring. He dons headgear, slips on his mouthguard and then battles for up to five three-minute rounds – usually trading jabs with Benny, a former pro boxer who now trains fighters. “When you’re hitting somebody, it feels all right. It doesn’t feel so good when you get hit yourself,” he says. “But Benny uses discretion. He’s not trying to knock me out.” Swanson pipes in: “Just enough to keep him honest.” McColl chuckles in agreement: “He keeps me honest.” Besides the sparring, the senior citizen turned modern-day gladiator hits the speed bag, heavy bag and floor-to-ceiling punching ball, while also shadow-boxing in front of a mirror and then stepping into the ring with Benny to work on technique. “My family think I’m nuts,” he says, adding his wife calls him “OFWG” – Old Fart With Gloves. But the former owner of Hugh McColl South Park Motors on Whyte Avenue credits boxing with keeping him physically strong and mentally sharp, not to mention improving his hand-eye co-ordination. There are also the obvious self-defence benefits.

– DAVID BLOOM, Sun photos

Hugh McColl, former Edmonton car dealership owner, above, spent part of his recent 85th birthday hitting the Panther Gym, 11104 102 Ave., and going for a few rounds, left, with the owner and trainer, Benny (the Jet) Swanson.

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