Spider Jones’ Fight For Youth Charity Boxing Match entertained high society on Wednesday evening the 18th April, 2018, the same as it did last year and the year before that.  The elite sporting event occurs like clockwork every spring at the swanky Arcadian Court at 401 Bay Street in downtown Toronto.

Fight for Youth promo badge, Spider Jones, 18 April 2018

The annual occasion was created by Spider Jones, a Canadian heavyweight boxer, radio host, author and motivational speaker five years ago.  The boxing match event happens in connection with Believe to Achieve, a registered Canadian charity.  The elaborate affair is held every year in Spider Jone’s name to raise funds for Spider’s Web Youth Empowerment Center located in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood of Toronto.

Fight for Youth is more than a charity boxing match; it’s also a VIP cocktail party followed by a lavish dinner and silent auction.  Adding to the spectacle is Spider’s own impassioned speeches delivered from inside the boxing ring. The radio host’s stirring oration always includes nods of recognition to the evening’s biggest donors and other praiseworthy community leaders in attendance.

Our party arrived at 401 Bay St at 5:45pm and entered through the main revolving doors against the flow of office workers leaving the building en mass at the start of their evening commute.  In the pedestrian foyer, we were intercepted by a Pantheon security guard who directed us to nearby elevators which, unbeknownst to her, had just automatically switched off all access above the sixth floor.  Our event was on the eighth floor. Confusion ensued.

We rode up to the sixth floor and back down, multiple times. At one point we shared the car with a proud dad who was delivering up his middle son, one of sixteen amateur boxers on tonight’s card, to the designated change room and workout area above.
boxer elevator author in reflection

Check the chrome and you will see this author’s ‘camera self reflection’. Notice my blue tie? This is actually a black tie event, which these days just seems to mean ‘bow tie’, and which I interpret to mean ‘wear a tie’.

When the elevator doors finally opened on the eighth floor we heard the familiar tinkle of glassware and unseen kibitzing in the distance. We found ourselves walking past a portable vinyl photo wall emblazoned with the Fight for Youth and Believe to Achieve logos.  We proceeded to Coat Check, and then to Event Reception.  The foyer was a grand place to network.  Older more seasoned philanthropists were most visible here here mingling with lifelong friends and colleagues. 

The photo below shows the foyer after the cocktail party ended, when people were migrating through the space to their seats in the dining room / event hall.  Here’s where Scott Sutherland personally greeted his many friends, high profile guests, charity comrades and generous donors of all stripes.

Scott Sutherland - Fight for Youth - 18 April 2018

A proud Scot, this young Sutherland sits is the head of a different kind of clan. Scott Sutherland is CEO of Sutherland Group of Companies which works across Canada ‘to create more possibilities’ for imaginative entrepreneurs operating privately-held businesses.  The organization helps these dynamic leaders of tomorrow with creative financing options, wise counsel, and access to powerful resources today.  Scott was very busy meeting and greeting his people, but also presiding over menu changes, match card adjustments and straightening out inevitable last-minute seating issues.

Once again this year, same as last year, there was some confusion at main reception as more tables were added to accommodate last minute guests (one of which was for myself). And it worked out the same as last year, Scott Sutherland set his mind to the task and briskly sorted it out quicker than you can open a Celtic sporran.

front desk confusion at event

Once party goers had cleared these necessary registrations, and knew their table number, they headed for the dining room.

The central foyer and event hall entrance area was ensconced with a wide variety of treasures on offer in a silent auction.  Each object had a reciprocating clipboard on which bids were entered by enumerated bidders.  Many of these posh luxury objects were of great value, and two Norval Morrisseau paintings in particular garnered a lot of attention. More than one guest asked to inspect them in closer detail.

two Norval Morrisseau paintings in a silent auction - Toronto
In total, there were seventy-two items up for grabs in the evening’s Silent Auction.

Fight for Youth – Cocktail Party, Upstairs in Arcadian Court

Arcadian Court is an 8000 square ft event space on the eighth floor of 401 Bay St that originally opened in 1929, and is still recognized as one of Toronto’s best ballrooms. The space has sixteen grand arches supporting a vaulted ceiling from which hang Lalique crystal chandeliers. With no offending poles or pillars to block a center-mounted spectacle, the venue offers great sight lines and good acoustics. From the beginning, the space has played host to many monumental firsts, including Toronto’s first auto show, the first radio broadcasts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the first radio and televised live performances of entertainment legends including Liberace and also Sotheby’s first live auction outside of England.

Arcadian Court is rather unique in how it can customize its interior like no other A-list venue in the City of Toronto. It can accommodate a basketball court, or a televised symphony orchestra with ballroom dancing, or become a live theater or host dance productions on hardwood floor.  Charity boxing matches served with four course meals are easy here.

Upstairs in the lounge area of this lavishly appointed conference center, overlooking the empty boxing ring down in the event venue itself, was a preemptive cocktail party in which many attendees posed by the rail for group portraits.
starlett selfies

In the foreground, Pamella Houston winces in a manner that all but ensures this group shot will not be seen on Instagram. Pam is widely regarded as Toronto’s foremost Black Historian. Here she is hanging with her society friends by the rail, with the entire sports venue visible in the background below.

Courtland on the right, shares a photo with The Toms, legendary clothiers in Kensington Market, Toronto.

TOM clothier in Kensington market at Fight for Youth

Below is Dr Vicki Sharp, Joel Levy publisher of Toronto Guardian, and Sari Ruda.

Vicki , Loel and Sari
Vicky Sharpe is a strategic advisor to the Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a Government of Canada initiative whose mission is to build a sustainable development technology infrastructure. Vicki was the first employee and founding President and CEO of that organization for thirteen years.

The meet & greet was held in the presence of a freshly painted work of art. This mysterious masterpiece was central to the aforementioned silent auction.  One by one wealthy the Bay St bankers, lawyers and property developers stopped to admire the canvas and struggle to make sense of its name, Thrilla in Manilla.

Thrilla in Manilla, painted by Patrick Nunziata, 2018, celebrates the real life Thrilla in Manila, the third and final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  The historic match was contested on Wednesday, October 1st, 1975 for the Heavyweight Championship of the World at the Philippine Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines.  Thrilla in Manilla - Muhammed Ali vs Joe Frazier, 1975 in PhillipinesUS boxer Muhammad Ali won the match to retain the world heavyweight boxing championship title.  Most sports historians agree that the Thrilla in Manilla was a transcending moment from 1970’s boxing, a Golden Age in Boxing; the match presented arch rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at their finest, in their greatest fight.

Shannon Tebb, Toronto matchmaker dazzled her diaspora

Toronto matchmaker Shanny in the City made myriad smiles at her mini table exploring device-driven digital distractions.
magical networking
Toronto matchmaker and relationship guru Shanny in the City was surrounded by many admirers the whole night.

The host of the evening, Charles “Spider” Jones also posed with Shanny at the rear of the establishment before his role as MC began in earnest. Spider Jones is a former three-time Golden Glove Champion that was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. Tonight’s boxing match is his own signature event, and Spider played the consummate host.  Spider Jones is witty, charming, and uniquely approachable.

shanny spider

Fight For Youth is Spider Jones’ foremost passion project.

Spider jone s in the ring

For over thirty minutes Spider spoke eloquently to his supporters in the lavish Arcadian Court, atop 401 Bay St.

the fight night begins at Spider Jones - Fight for Youth - 18 April 2018, Arcadian Court

The venerated boxer explained how Fight for Youth started five years ago, and has been held once annually ever since with all proceeds going to fund a youth web skills training and empowerment center situated at the Believe to Achieve organization’s after-school drop-in center (in the Jane Finch neighbourhood of Toronto).

‘All the greatest Champions got knocked down once or twice’, Spider said from his position in the boxing ring, and then he added ‘all except Chuvalo’ as a force of habit, before he continued, ‘and when they’re down and getting back up and on their feet again is when they’re at their greatest.’  Spider explained how Believe to Achieve follows the same business model as many of the real estate developers in the room; the charity organization is also about property management, but the property is self, and self worth. He believes that after-school programs that teach web skills can also instill a strong value system that outweighs and over-powers the appeal of guns, neighbourhood gangs, crime and addiction.

Spider Jones was at his best that night as he called out his most notable supporters; local politicians, high ranking police officials, clothiers and bankers  smiled and waved back.  Everyone enjoyed meeting and carousing with John Gallagher, Chris Shepard and other local television personalities, news reporters, music VJs and celebrities of all stripes.

Below is Samantha Roman, a cannabis consultant in Toronto. This fascinating woman works as a medical marijuana entrepreneur and deal connector across the expanding cannabis sector in Canada and around the globe.

Samantha Roman at VIP fundraiser

In Summary, Pugilism makes Strange Supper Theatre

Let the Fights Begin!  Eight matches happened ten minutes apart in conjunction with two dozen staff members serving a four-course meal.  A delicious sesame seed soup was followed by house salad and mango butter flavoured chicken on a bed of roasted lentils with caramelized carrots.

entree was chicken and veggies

That’s probably not what it says in the official meal description, but its what I was delivered, and is in my own memory.

At the same time as wealthy older people were masticating this food, young underprivileged youth were boxing for their entertainment.  Here is the Match Card for Fight for Youth – 18 April 2018

Dennis Steingart 165lbs Sr 5bt (St Catharines) vs. Daniel Deflorimonte 165lbs Sr 0bt (Dewiths)
Bruno Deroches 141lb Sr 13bt (ONTC) vs. Stephen Ryan 138lb Sr 30bt (St Catharines)
Kylie Fallis 145lb Sr Open Fem (Steeltown) vs. Carolyn Redmond 148lb Sr Open Fem (TNT)
Cameron Hyde 156lb Sr Open (Gideon) vs. Dan Ryan 158lb Sr Open (St Catharines)
Adrian Halford 144lb Sr Open (Atlas) vs. Mathankan Iranjan 144lb Sr Open (Gideon)
Paul Ispas 142lb Sr Open (Old School) vs. Bradley Wilcox 142lb Sr Open (Steeltown)
Mathusan Mahindas 138lb Sr Open (Gideon) vs. Sheldon Wilcox 140lb Sr Open (Steeltown)
Mandy Bujold 119lb Sr Open Fem (Atlas) vs. Jessica Burgess 118lb Sr Open Fem (ONTC)

Experienced officials presided over the fights.

Its very hard to get pictures of the matches themselves. Photographers are not allowed to use flash photography during the bouts. But watch the emotional progress of the red boxer below in between the rounds. First we see his eager disposition before the match begins…

red boxer before fight

And we see his struggle against a man in blue.

boxers begin

The fight went all three rounds.  But red was dead after two..

boxing red contender

Battling exhaustion, flanked by Coach and a bucket welding buddy, he looks close to throwing in the towel.

But he overcomes his own weakness in Round Three.

At the end of the match…

red shirt boxer after the match

He is victorious!

Fight For Youth was founded in 2012 to empower and enrich the lives of at-risk youth with life-skills and opportunities. The registered charitable youth empowerment initiative keeps kids loved, fed, mentored and away from the mean streets of Toronto’s toughest neighborhoods.

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