Willie de Wit: The Lord of the Ring
Nicholas Pashley was a bookseller and a freelance writer and editor in Toronto.
Willie de Wit was a 17-year-old high school football star in Grande Prairie, Alberta, when he first turned to boxing. His first opponent lasted twenty seconds. Less than six years later, de Wit won the heavyweight silver medal at the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles. This book tells the story of the young man’s brief life up to the point of his Olympic success and the end of his career as an amateur.
Although young de Wit appears to have been something of a natural, it took more than ability to become an Olympic fighter in a northern Alberta town with no facilities or coaches. Under the tutelage of a local ex-boxer turned dentist, de Wit blossomed to become the Canadian champion in 1981, Commonwealth Games winner in 1982, and world amateur champion the following year.
De Wit’s amiable personality, his knockout punch, and, it must be said, his white skin (white heavyweight champions have been remarkably thin on the ground) made him a popular figure in fighting circles, and his anticipated gold medal at Los Angeles was expected to launch his professional career, as Olympic gold had launched the careers of Muhammad Ali and other modern champions. Unfortunately, de Wit’s upset defeat spoiled some of his plans and cost him a bit of short-term money, but he quickly turned professional, and time will tell if the young boxer’s ambitions are to be realized.
De Wit’s story is told in a straightforward manner, with no more repetition of steely glares and iron fists than one would expect. Clearly, it is no mean feat to write the biography of a 23-year-old, but Beaudin has done a serviceable job. True, the first page has de Wit standing proudly in his Canada tracksuit at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, while on page 211 an aloof de Wit watches it all on television. Presumably everything but the final chapter had gone to the printer before The Great White Hope from the Great White North made his plans for the opening ritual. Interesting too that the only reference to Canada on the cover of this book is the bit where it says $3.25 CAN $3.95.