BY SCOTT HADDOW
Boxer Ryan Ranelli has earned the right to trade punches with the best in the world as he has qualified for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in
The event runs from March 15 to 26.
The Sudbury native, who now works and trains in Hamilton, won the 51-kilogram Canadian National Senior Championship in January. Winning put Ranelli in the driver's seat for the spot on Team Canada.
All he had to do was beat the same boxer from the Canadian nationals one more time at the final team selection box off in Quebec in late January.
The challenger had to win twice to grab the spot.
Early in the match, the referee was behind Ranelli and caused him to trip. The ensuing fall severely sprained Ranelli's ankle and caused him to lose the bout.
Organizers gave Ranelli three weeks to heal before the second match and he came back ready to explode, but didn't have to.
"I kept training through the injury and showed up for the second box off bout in Halifax in late February," said the 20-year-old. "My opponent didn't show, so I won by walk over. It just shows he didn't want it bad enough. Despite my injury, I showed up to fight."
Ranelli can hardly wait to represent Canada at one of the major sporting events in the world. He knows it puts him in a very select spotlight for an even bigger athletic event in the future.
"It feels awesome to go," said the former ONTC member. "It's the biggest international tournament I have ever been to. It means a lot to me because it's a stepping stone to the 2008 Olympics, which is where I want to go."
Ranelli is following more of his family roots, as his uncle, Bill, won a bronze medal in boxing at the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
While the challenge will be his biggest to date, Ranelli is ready for all out war.
"The competition is going to be much better than I have ever faced before," said the puncher. "There are 71 countries involved. Overall, it's going to
be a great learning experience to try my best against the best competition and that way I can improve for the future. It will give me a good idea of where I stand in the world."
Team Canada coach Vinnie Ryan sees Ranelli as a deserving participant.
"He has proven he's the champion," said Ryan. "He's ready. He doesn't have the experience. It's a big task for him."
The Commonwealth Games will benefit Ranelli win, lose or draw.
"The Games will be difficult for him," said Ryan. "This is a stepping stone for the 2008 Olympics. What we need from Ryan is as much international experience as possible. Whatever happens will be a benefit to him. He can see all the other boxers and find out what he has to improve."