Kelly Korkola, a boxing prodigy, was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame at the age of 14. It was after that his life started to unravel.
“What happened to me was — I had a bunch of family members pass away on me and I went down the wrong side of the tracks,” he said.
“I turned to drugs. It was the only way to stop me having those feelings.”
After spending several years struggling with sobriety, Korkola managed to refocus his energy and return to the sport he loves.
He is now a volunteer coach with Mentoring Junior Kids Organization – where they use boxing as a tool to teach life skills and leadership training to youth under 18, for free.
“I look at these kids who have issues and problems and I don’t want to see them walk down my track,” says Korkola.
“I’m trying to guide them the right way.”
To the kids who attend, Korkola is much more than a coach. He is someone they can speak freely to about the challenges they face on a daily basis.
“Before I came to this program I was usually really lonely,” says Iris Chen, MJKO boxing participate. “I wouldn’t really talk to other people I would just sit in the corner. Now I socialize with other people.”
For the last three years, Korkola has spent more than 20 hours a week mentoring kids both in and out of the boxing ring.
“I feel like he’s able to understand, provides us with great advice on making our own choices and moving forward” says MJKO Youth Coach, Anna Zhang.
Miranda Kamal, co-founder of MJKO said Kelly is “one of a kind.”
“He knows the love of boxing, but he also knows hard times, and most of the children we’re working with, they know hard times,” she said.
“To be able to have a coach who’s lived in their shoes and come out the other side — that’s the best part about having coach Kelly in our organization.”