Double gold medallist Ryan Charles shares insights into his boxing experiences that translate nicely to inspire anyone wanting to take on the future in a similarly bold way.
If there is one storyline that is consistent across class, culture, ethnic, and political lines in human society it is the story of a young life at a crossroads. In the richest and poorest countries alike, young children often slip through the cracks of society and educational systems. Troubled children easily become lost, and can easily become another sad story of a life wasted.
What makes this storyline so sad is that the slightest alteration in their course could drastically impact their future, setting them on a better course toward a life of purpose, passion, and results. For a young man from the Creole nation of St. Lucia, it took the introduction of a simple extracurricular activity to introduce purpose, passion, and focus into a life on the brink.
Who is Ryan Charles?
Still a young man at just 26 years of age, Ryan Charles is a two-time gold medal winning boxer from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. Ryan, still an amateur boxer, has won gold medals from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Boxing Championships and Creole
Though the modern world might view boxing as a derelict sport, in its heyday boxing was known as a gentleman’s game because it was viewed as a sport not for violent individuals but rather for those with skill, will-power, and discipline. It is this aspect of the sport that corrected the path of Mr. Charles’ life, a path he hopes to provide for other creole youths in the future.
As a youngster growing up in St. Lucia, Ryan admits to having discipline and behaviour issues at school. Though not among the worst behaved kids, he admitted in an interview with Kreol Magazine that he used to get into fights at school and often found trouble on the streets. His future would be turned around at the age of eight though when he was introduced to boxing.
It all began when his aunt started to date a boxer. This man introduced Ryan to the sport and would take him to the gym to train. He was immediately hooked on the rush and challenge that boxing provided, and by the time he turned 18 he had been taking training more seriously. By 21 he was fighting on a regular basis.
Ryan’s life experience with boxing to date is about more than a man succeeding because he translated physical talents and drive into a successful boxing career. His is a story about a young boy who found an outlet in a sport. It gave him drive, direction, and a purpose.
Boxing: Changing a Life
Boxing, and the support of his closest family members, helped pull Ryan away from an early life of trouble. For Ryan, boxing was never about having an outlet for violent tendencies, but instead served to give him guidance, control over his emotions, and a goal to strive for.
Growing up as a young boxer he idolised the likes of Andre Ward, Leonard Lewis, and Muhammad Ali. It was the latter that had a particular impact on Ryan. Ali knew that a boxer would never win being a fighter, but rather needed to be a tactician with the heart of a lion to win. As Ryan stated in his interview with Kreol Magazine, Ali once said:
“A fighter has to have last minute stamina, strength, power and skills, but the will has to be stronger than the skill. You can be the best boxer, but if someone else wants it more, they are going to win. You have to want it more than anything in the world.”
Ryan credits boxing with giving him the self-discipline and respect for himself and others that he needed to not only succeed in the ring, but succeed in life. Beyond those lessons, boxing gave him the confidence. He told Kreol Magazine that “people can cheer you, but it won’t keep you from getting hit in the face. A hostile crowd can throw you off your game, or it can motivate you to fight; it depends how you take it.” It is that message that drives Ryan to look to the future.
Playing it Forward
Ryan is not shy about the role that boxing played in transforming his life, and he hopes to one day return the favour to youngsters throughout the Caribbean Creole world. While he acknowledged that there is a great deal of talent amongst Creole youngsters in St. Lucia, he also recognises the lack of opportunity.
He would like to see more involvement, resources, and effort from the government of St. Lucia to reach out and promote options (boxing and other sports) to the youth of the island. As boxing saved him, he believes it too can save other youngsters. At this point in time St. Lucia has just one boxing programme that reaches out to youth in schools. While it offers them a chance to train and fight in the ring, there aren’t any rival programmes to hold exhibitions against so opportunities are limited.
When asked what he would be doing now if he weren’t a boxer, Ryan perhaps foreshadowed his own future when he said “I would still be involved in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer. I would not mind coaching and mentoring in schools. I can see myself as a St. Lucia National Team coach, teaching people what I know and sharing my knowledge of being a champion.”
While the immediate future for Ryan consists of international appearances as an amateur boxer, he definitely sees a future with greater success for Creole boxers around the globe. He believes that there is a lot of talent in Creole cultures, but the lack of opportunities is stifling young talent.
His message to young boxers everywhere, especially those who might be on troubled paths now, is to give boxing a try. He points to the confidence it gave him in himself, the self-discipline and morals it instilled in him, as pivotal in setting him on the right path. He hopes to do the same for other young Creoles in the future.