James Mott might be fairly unassuming to passersby on the street, but the minute he ducks under the ropes and stands in a boxing ring, he commands attention.
He can be witnessed standing front-and-centre in the 2 Rivers Boxing ring a few times a week, leading classes through conditioning exercises that would tire a fit 22-year-old.
Mott turns 56 next month.
The Quesnel resident thinks he might be the oldest active boxer in B.C.
He chuckles when asked how he knows that, and says he hasn’t competed with anybody older than him.
While his son, Daniel ‘Mayhem’ Mott, is the sixth-ranked Super Middleweight in B.C., James didn’t come to the sport until three years ago.
He says he was getting terribly out of shape and joined 2 Rivers just to exercise.
Mott trained in kung-fu in the 1980s and watched his sons box, so knew the workouts would help him get back on track.
While shaping up, Mott’s paternal instinct kicked in and he began taking an interest in helping out some of the young boxers in the gym.
“One day I got thinking, what if a kid asked me, ‘How could you help us if you’ve never had a fight?’” he says.
He didn’t really want to spar, but his son Daniel convinced him, and it became a regular part of his workout.
A couple of months after getting comfortable in the ring, Wally Doern, the head coach for 2 Rivers Boxing, approached Mott about taking part in a Golden Gloves competition.
“I said no way!” Mott exclaims.
“But Dan said, ‘Oh yeah, do it dad! It’s just like sparring!’”
He reluctantly put his name in the hat and drew an experienced fighter with six prior bouts to his name.
Already feeling nervous, he was even more so after seeing his opponent handily defeat someone 10 years his junior in a bout early on in the tournament.
“So I went home and got up the next morning at about five o’clock and I went for a run,” he says.
“I was huffing and puffing and pushing myself and I thought, ‘You know, a fight’s only five minutes long and this run’s 20 minutes long and I’ve got to gut it out every day! Maybe I’ll just get up there and do it and just get ‘er done and say I had a fight.’”
Mott says he duked it out with his first opponent and managed to pull off the win.
“It was so exhilarating,” he says.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I gotta do that again!’”
He would get his chance, at a fundraising fight in Kelowna a short while later.
“It was probably the best fight I’ve ever had,” Mott says, a smile lighting up his face like someone talking about a sunset they had seen or a delicious meal they had enjoyed.
“The guy was about 15 years younger than me and he was a ski instructor.
“I was really pushing myself for physical condition as I was just coming back from being out of shape, so I was working really hard.
“We went in there and we got Fight of the Night and I got the People’s Choice Award.
“It was fun!”
Of Mott’s six fights, he has only suffered one defeat.
Calf injuries leading up to the bout had him doubting himself, and Mott says he went into the match with a negative outlook and it showed in the first round.
“By the second round I was controlling the fight, but I’d lost too many points in the first round,” he says, sighing.
“It was just a close loss, but I learned from that.
“I learned how important an attitude is.
“I go into every fight now believing I’m going to win.”
He preaches the same message to the kids at 2 Rivers who are preparing for fights of their own.
“I say, ‘Believe you’re going to win!’ Because you don’t know until it’s over.”
Mott describes his boxing style as aggressive and straightforward.
“Because I’m kind of short, I’ve learned the hard way,” he explains.
“When I first started [training at 2 Rivers Boxing], we had a lot of tall, really experienced fighters in the club and me trying stay back, deke their punches and hit them wasn’t working because they’re so long.
“They’re so crafty, my only chance was to get in close and stay in close and stick to them.”
Once Mott hears that bell to signify the beginning of a round, he never lets the person standing across from him rest.
He just wears them down, and the strategy has worked.
“I don’t allow them time to think,” he says.
“So they get to the point pretty quickly where they’re flailing and not even boxing any more.
“Then it’s just a matter of who’s got the best cardio and who wants it the most.”
He is itching for the next opponent to impose his will on, but 2018 hasn’t been a great year for match-ups.
Mott says he will accept anything.
He was even offered a bout against a 17-year-old for a recent card in Williams Lake, but the promoters revoked the offer as it would not have looked great if either fighter had won convincingly.
While he waits, Mott is still training three days a week, jogging every weekday and keeping in tip-top condition.
“No matter how much you exercise, no matter how much you do on the bags and focus pads, it doesn’t mean anything when you step in that ring.
“The moment you’re in there with somebody who can attack and defend, you’ve got to come up with a new plan every time.”