By ANDREW OMRAN
Respect, discipline and self-control made it possible for Fitzroy Vanderpool to make the transition to mentor.
The boxing legend, better known as Fitz the Whip, grew up on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. He always knew he wanted to become a professional boxer but he didn’t always receive the support he was hoping for.
“It was one of those things where I wish I could have given a speech thanking my family for all the support but it wasn’t there. I couldn’t say those things. It’s really unfortunate,” he said.
Fitz, now 45 years old, often lived in the shadow of his younger brother who was receiving more attention from others in the industry.
“In my family I was the middle child so I got the middle child syndrome where you had to work your butt off to get anything.
“He had all the sponsorship money and all the support. I didn’t have that support. For me, I always had to work harder to prove that I was good enough … that I was worthy of accomplishing what I wanted to do,” he said.
Though there were always barriers in his way, Fitz remained focused on what he wanted to achieve. He had a little help along the way.
“My high school wrestling coach, he would tell me ‘never give up, never give up’ and that always stuck to me. People don’t realize the impact teachers and parents have on kids and he instilled that into me,” he said.
In his career, Fitz won five professional titles; the Canadian Professional Boxing Federation title, the World Boxing Federation Intercontinental title, the World Boxing Council Welterweight Fecarbox title, the World Boxing Federation Super Welterweight World title, and the World Boxing Council Super Welterweight Fecarbox title.
These successes led to him being inducted into the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2008 — something that he says is his biggest success to date.
“It meant more than anything else because this is my community. This is where I live. For the community to recognize me and what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished, it’s meant a great deal to me.”
Upon retirement, Fitz was ready to give back to the community that gave him so much.
Vanderpool mentors youth athletes who train at his gym by assisting them with their training and making himself available for guidance.
“One of the big things that I feel I bring to the table is that I’m the only world champion that actually lives in the tri-cities. I can show them what it takes to be successful.
“Being the only world champion in the tri-city region, it’s something that can have a positive impact on these kids and I can let them know what they can do if they want to work hard and dedicate themselves and make the sacrifices … it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard, but if you want it and you believe in yourself then you can do it.”
When it’s all said and done, the boxing legend would like to be remembered for an acronym associated with the nickname and a message that he lives by.
“When I finish talking to these kids, I tell them that if you remember nothing else, remember the whip. ‘With hope, it’s possible.’ Believe in yourself and you can do it.”
You can follow Fitz the Whip on twitter @FitzroyTheWhip.