Due to government restrictions, Black Box MMA in Duncan had to close its doors for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that didn’t deter Codey Manley.
The 14-year-old Frances Kelsey Secondary student was so determined to start boxing that he and his dad started hanging out in the gym’s parking lot on Queens Road, waiting for owner Shane Jung to show up.
When it became possible, Jung took Manely under his wing, and the youngster’s determination paid off this spring when he won his first fight in Surrey on April 23, stopping an older and more experienced boxer in the third round.
“He looks like he’s going to go far in the sport,” Jung says. “He’s special, he really is. He is arguably the most talented we’ve had in the decade we’ve been open. Across the board, he’s been the most promising athlete we’ve ever had. He works way harder than any of us.
“He’s the main focal point of the gym at this time.”
Manley had tried other sports, like soccer, when he was younger, but nothing ever clicked. Around the age of nine or 10, though, he watched the 2011 sci-fi movie Real Steel, in which Hugh Jackman plays a former boxer who builds a fighting robot with his son. Inspired by that film, and the fact that his dad used to box, Manley developed an interest in boxing. At 12, he started training on a bag every day, and eventually started working with Jung and Black Box.
It took a while for Manley to get comfortable with his own abilities, but once he did, he felt at home in the ring.
“Once I got my confidence, it made me a better boxer. I don’t mind getting hit,” he says. “Knowing that a guy is going to try to take your head off, and defending that and trying to hit him, is really fun. The feeling of getting in there really gets me pumped up.”
Manley admits he was “really nervous” before his first fight in April. So nervous, in fact, that he forgot to put on his jock strap and had to go back to the dressing room to put it on over top of his shorts. Everyone was laughing when he returned, including his parents.
“It was hilarious,” Manley confesses.
Despite that distraction, Manley came out swinging in the first round and stayed with his plan through the second round, and his opponent threw in the towel after a couple of uppercuts in the third round.
In the long run, Manley wants to have “a ton of fights” as an amateur, travel around Canada and the world, go to the Olympics, and then turn professional.
He’s putting in the work to get there.
In addition to training at Black Box twice a week, he works out at home every day and is in contact with his coaches outside of regular hours. He has come a long way from the 5-foot-1 kid who loved to spar when he first met Jung.
“I thought he had a lot of talent when he came in,” Jung recalls. “But when you watch the videos a year apart, you can see how far he has come. He’s special.”
Manley is still waiting for his next bout, but two other Black Box athletes will be in action this Thursday (July 7). Brandon Owen will fight for the Battlefield Fight League MMA featherweight belt, and Ryan Oakes will also be on the card as well. For more information, visit battlefieldfl.com/bfl73/