Revered boxing coach remembered

The final bell has rung for a man who helped champion the Maple Ridge Boxing Club.

John Skanks passed away on Monday, Jan. 13 at the age of 85.

Inducted into the Ridge Meadows Hall of Fame in 2004 and named Maple Ridge’s Citizen of the Year in 1995, the 30-year resident of Maple Ridge opened the doors of Maple Ridge Boxing Club every Monday to Thursday at exactly 6 p.m. – without missing a day.

One of those impacted by John’s guidance as a boxing coach was Rick Funk, who finished with a 75-8 amateur record, won a gold medal at the U19 national championships in 1989, and competed for Team Canada’s U19 ‘A’ team in San Juan, Puerto Rico that same year.

“He was a person who kept giving,” Funk said, of his longtime mentor who died from congestive heart failure. “He was so dedicated to the sport and to the kids, and he really tried to change kids’ lives, and help give them direction. Very rarely do you [coach] a national champion or a world champion, but if you impact kids’ lives, and changed their lives, that’s more important.”

Funk said “boxing was John’s life,” adding that he helped give him the “polish to be a good fighter.”

“If it wasn’t for him, I would never have been there [at the world championships],” Funk said. “He put the icing on the cake, I guess.”

The two lost touch for a while but reconnected before John’s passing.

“We were a bit like father and son, in a way,” Funk said. “John was a big part of my life for a long time.”

Funk now helps coach at the club, and passes on a few of the techniques that he learned from John to the next generation of amateur boxers.

“John taught me balance and technique,” Funk said. “John made me a much better fighter and a better person, too.”

Carol Skanks, John’s wife of 47 years, said her husband was committed to “encouraging people to shop locally.”

“We had our home improvement business, which we did a lot of local business,” she said.

Carol said John’s love of what’s affectionately known as the “Sweet Science” was cultivated from his early years as an amateur pugilist. He and his brother Robert boxed out of the Cabbagetown club in Toronto.

While the Maple Ridge Boxing Club is more than a half century old, Carol estimated that her late husband started coaching at the club in either “1980 or 1981.”

“He taught them [his boxers] how to hit and not get hit, improving their technical skills,” Carol said. “He would take them to tournaments all over the province, and nationally and internationally. It was his way of giving back.”

Carol said John had a saying: “As the twig is bent, so goes the tree. It is better to build the boy than bend the man.”

John was recognized by his peers in the sport of boxing with the Harold Mann Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

He is survived by Carol as well as his daughters Roberta John, Donna (John) and Hudson Taylor, Cynthia John in Toronto, as well as his brother Paul from Ottawa; his grandchildren Julian and Shawna Taylor;  great-granddaughter Ella Taylor-Maslen and many nieces and nephews.

John was predeceased by his parents Walter and Marion (Diabo) John and deceased siblings: Walter, Robert Richard, David Lloyd, Blanche Montour and Martha Diabo.

The service celebrating John’s life was held at the Maple Ridge Funeral Chapel, 11969 216th St. in Maple Ridge this past Friday, Jan. 17.

The service was followed by a reception at the Maple Ridge Boxing Club, 11925 Haney Place.

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