Kent Brown – Boxer, Survivor, Teacher

My name is Kent Brown.  I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I am a Fisher River Cree Band member.  The spirit name I have been given is Black Wolf.  I belong to the Wolf Clan.  This story is about how my sport of boxing defined and inspired me to become the person that I am today.

I grew up in the north end of Winnipeg, a very dangerous neighborhood. Drugs, alcohol and gangs.  Of course, there were good times too, growing up with my four cousins and younger brother. But we were poor, and there were times when we went hungry.  

But tough as that was, it was the divorce of my parents that may have had the biggest impact.  It made me angry and I needed something to deal with that anger.  Boxing was it for me.

I’ll never forget the day I walked into the basement gym of the City Boxing Club in Winnipeg. We got downstairs. It was dark and dingy and it smelled. And I absolutely fell in love. 

I walked into the coach’s office and said, “This is amazing! I want to join up! How much does it cost?” I also remember asking how many guys from this club went to the Olympic Games and he kind of looked at me funny and said, “None.”  And that’s when I said, “So I’m gonna be the first one.” And he laughed at me. And I didn’t care. I was on Cloud Nine and I couldn’t wait to start.

Starting meant picking up the whole discipline of it. Every day after school I rode my bike, jogged or took the bus to the gym.  It was a regimen and I just fell in love with it, having to do certain things at certain times and setting goals.

At the same time this change was happening, life was not without challenges. Creator bless my family, but I have a lot of family members that have been in and out of prison.  I really believe that if it weren’t for the sport of boxing, I could have followed that same path.  I would not have graduated. I would not have gone to university. I would not have had a professional job.  I attribute that to boxing and the tools it gave me.  

I was also very fortunate to have success in the ring. I got onto the National Boxing Team and, in 1999, became a national champion.  I was the closest I would ever come to reaching my goal of being an Olympian, but it was not to be.  A scoring controversy robbed me of my chance to go to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  I had won the fight, but it still wasn’t enough to earn my place on the team.

It was a difficult time. I almost gave up my sport.  But I had this teaching - you shouldn’t give up. And I had this flame in my stomach and it was boxing that got me back on track.  In my last fight, I won a gold medal in the North American Indigenous Games in Winnipeg, my hometown. It was a wonderful experience and I retired shortly after.

My fighting days over, I knew I wanted to give back.  It was around that time that I met this fellow named Chris Wilson, a national team wrestler from Winnipeg who was part of the Esteem Team, a group of elite and world class athletes who speak to kids in school about goal setting.  This was my way to give back to kids, my people, my community. I wanted to be part of this.

I remember speaking to a bunch of kids at a school outside of Flin-Flon and afterward this little kid came up to me and said, “After watching you and listening to you speak, I don’t want to kill myself anymore.”  You don’t listen to something like that without being moved.  You realize, we don’t do enough to give back to our people.  We need more than just an hour to speak to everybody, we need a few days.

And that started my interest and involvement in a program called GEN7 – short for the seventh generation – where aboriginal athletes go into communities and use sports and physical activity to help the community. To get the kids together to show the importance of it.

Finally there’s Fit First, a weight-loss show that I now host on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.  The premise for the show is that we don’t need a fancy gym for people to get healthy.  Here’s a program that people can use - the sport of boxing - and we can keep it fun and keep the interest of these individuals simply because it’s just a fun thing to do.

And it’s working: this really neat concept, having these people, mothers and grandmothers.  One woman on the show – Leanne – her entire family lost weight because of doing this show.

In a roundabout way, boxing has defined me. Who am I? I’m a proud father of two beautiful girls and have another baby on the way with my beautiful partner.

None of this could I have done without my sport. I couldn’t have been the person I am, I truly believe that.  That’s because of sport.