Every summer, several members of Vancouver’s hospitality industry step inside a boxing ring to fight and to fundraise.
Not experienced boxers but rather “regular” cooks, servers, dishwashers, and other staffers who go through tryouts and training to become ring-ready, they throw real punches in real brawls in an annual fundraising event called Restaurant Rumble. It’s all in support of programs that the not-for-profit Eastside Boxing Club provides to at-risk women and youth who have been exposed to violence.
Dave Schuck founded the gym in 2012 following the closure of the Astoria Boxing Club, where he was the head coach. That same year, the Aprons for Gloves Boxing Association (AFGBA) created the charity boxing match.
Restaurant Rumble has gone on to become an event in itself, drawing about 1,000 people to the Commodore Ballroom each year.
Since 2012, dozens of women and men have fought with all the ferocity of pros. During their time with gloves on, so much intense physical exertion and the heat of competition has stirred up all sorts of emotions; many participants have battled their own personal demons along the way or experienced major breakthroughs as a result.
Their experiences, along with stunning images, make up the new book Blood, Sweat, & Beers: A History of Restaurant Rumble. Author Laura Starr (a sommelier-turned-writer and AFG alumnus) and photographer Guy Roland (a boxer and former short-film director and feature-film art director) have put together a 256-page-hardcover book featuring 20 fighters’ stories and 450 photos, a mix of dramatic portraits, action shots complete with flying sweat, and snapshots that evoke exhaustion, defeat, elation, victory, and release.
The book gives those who have never donned boxing gloves a better sense of just how much prep and courage it takes to fight as well as how the sport can transform much more than people’s physical form and strength, helping bolster mental and emotional health, too.
Starr and Roland not only provide a vivid history of Restaurant Rumble but also pay tribute to the Eastside Boxing Club. With community partners, the gym offers a free after-school boxing program three times a week to youth aged 10 to 20 who predominantly live or spend time in the Downtown Eastside and East Vancouver areas. It also provides a free self-defence class twice a month to women, female-identified and all members of LGBTTQQ2S living in or around East Vancouver. (Eastside Boxing Club offers a range of boxing classes, from beginner boxing to women’s’ boxing to BoxFit as well.)
Blood, Sweat & Beers, $50, is available for purchase online.