By Lloyd Dolha
A former amateur middleweight champion from Winnipeg who lost his youth to the toxic Winnipeg gang culture has returned with a vengeance to become Canada’s new light heavyweight champion. Junior “Ralph” Moar (Métis, age 30) defeated Abdullah Ramadan, age 42, of Toronto in the sixth round to claim the title at the River Rock Casino in Richmond on June 19, 2009.
The two were evenly matched, exchanging a series of powerful blows in the opening rounds. Moar went down twice in the fifth round, but managed to get back on his feet. In the end, Ramadan was disqualified for deliberately delivering low blows to the stocky Métis fighter. “I’m backing out. I’m backing out,” Ramadan said to the referee in the sixth round, but then he didn’t back out, choosing instead to bow out through the disqualification. “It’s not the way I wanted to win the belt, but a win’s a win,” said Moar after the fight. “He was obviously looking for a way out.”
When he stepped out of the ring, Moar hugged his father (who had recently suffered a heart attack) and said, “This one’s for you, Dad.” Moar went into the fight with a 6-2 winning record including two KO’s, facing Ramadan’s 15-8 record with nine KO’s. Ramadan was a world-ranked middleweight in the 1990’s who boxed in the Olympics in 1988. He was making a comeback in his forties. The two slugged it out for the 175-pound division championship previously held by Jason Naugler, who moved up to the next weight class.
Moar’s win was the first title bout held in the province in nine years. He has won his last four consecutive fights since relocating to the West Coast in July 2007 from Winnipeg. Moar was the Canadian amateur middleweight champion in 1997, at just 18. He was also the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association boxer of the year. He fell from grace in the boxing world when members of the notorious Zig Zag street gang in Winnipeg started hanging around at the boxing gym where Moar trained. The Métis champion became involved with them, drinking heavily, doing drugs, and even carrying a gun. His bright future became lost to that nether world and came to an abrupt halt when he was arrested on December 12, 1990 for shooting a rival gang member outside his home in Winnipeg. It was lucky for Moar that his intended victim suffered only a minor injury because the bullet’s trajectory was effected by the metal of the car he was in.
With two prior convictions for assault and theft, the court gave him a mandatory four-year sentence at the medium-security Stoney Mountain Institution in Winnipeg. In just six months, Moar went from champion to prison inmate. “I felt like my life was over,” recalled Junior in an interview. “I was so depressed I did nothing… it was horrible. I’d wake up every morning and couldn’t believe I was in jail.” While in jail, some of his former gang buddies from the Zig Zag crew implicated Junior on some new charges. Although the charges didn’t stick, he was placed in solitary confinement for 27 months for his own protection. On July 1, 2001, Junior’s brother Michael died of leukemia, just months after his incarceration. It was a major turning point that made Junior seriously re-evaluate his life. “I honestly prayed to God to give me another chance, and if he did I would resurrect my boxing career,” said Junior in a 2007 interview with the Richmond News.
These days, Junior trains six hours a day at the Burnaby Boxing Club, working out and refining his boxing skills. The champion boxer also works with Aboriginal youth in the downtown eastside, sitting on the board of directors for the Urban Native Youth Association. He has also shared his story with inner-city youth at the Vancouver gang youth squad. His trainer, Manny Sobral, himself a former Canadian Olympic fighter with an impressive record of 130-11 as an amateur before turning pro after the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. “I think [Junior] has a bright future. He’s been through everything, drugs, alcohol, jail and he’s come full circle. He’s an amazing guy,” said Sobral.
Junior Moar will have his first title defense on September 17th, at the Red Robinson Theatre in Coquitlam.