When Johnny Mac steps into the ring on June 15, he’s fighting for something worth more than a title.
An openly gay athlete, he is also fighting to change how others perceive him. In the ring, he calls himself “The Rebel” because he’s rebelled against stereotypes his entire life.
“I think there’s still a lot of typical stereotypes out there. It’s kind of going to help do away with those,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
“When I get up in the ring on June 15 I’m not only going to be fighting for myself, but I’m gonna be fighting for the whole community and I think when they see what I can do in the ring, they’re going to really start and think about what we can do together and do away with these stereotypes.”
Mac began boxing in his teens after being bullied. He hoped to lose weight and learn to defend himself. But mental health issues and an addiction to drugs put him in a bad place.
Now, having recovered and gotten back on track, using boxing as a sort of rehab, Mac is ready to make his professional debut at the age of 29.
But when Mac ducks under the ropes on June 15 at the Lebrun Recreation Centre in Bedford, N.S. for his first pro bout, it will mark a huge milestone for an openly gay fighter.
Tison Cave, Mac’s promoter, trainer and fellow boxer says that Mac’s sexuality has never been an issue.
“We were driving the car, and he said my partner, and I’m like ‘your partner?'” said Cave, the owner of the Spryfield Boxing Gym, who also goes by Tyson Cave.
“Because he doesn’t look like and doesn’t strike you to be a gay guy, especially coming into a boxing gym, and it’s very… difficult for them to come out.”
But Mac says he doesn’t see this bout as a coming out party.
His sexuality is just a part of who he is and it’s important for Mac to stay true to himself. That’s the message he hopes people take away from his story.
“Always be comfortable in your own skin, don’t worry about other people’s judgment. If they insist on judging you and labeling you, you just hunker down and fight through it and show them what you can do,” Mac said.
“At the end of the day you stand your ground and be who you are, and stand tall and proud.”
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Both Cave and Mac say they have been overwhelmed by the amount of support that he has received from the boxing community and the wider community thus far.
“All I ask is that I hope that his community really sticks with him and helps him because he’s not just doing it for his partner he’s doing it for the community too, and he’s doing it for Nova Scotia, at the end of the day he’s a fighter,” said Cave.
When Mac steps into the ring, he’s not just fighting his opponent.
He is fighting to abolish stereotypes and bring everyone together and if anyone has a problem with that, Cave says that Mac is willing to let his fighting do the talking.
“Johnny is willing to spar with anyone who has a problem with it, and he’s willing to fight anyone who has a problem with it,” said Cave.
“We have contracts and stuff for that and I can pay them very well.”