A new mural in Kentville honors the life and boxing career of Olympian Bryan Gibson

Bryan Gibson poses under the mural dedicated to his life and career. Gibson is pictured alongside his sons, Curtis and Chad, stepdaughters, Kari and Melanie, and grandson, Lincoln. Photo: Matthew Byard.

Former amateur boxer Jaimie Peerless described herself as a “troubled youth” when she met her boxing trainer Bryan Gibson in 2000 when she joined the Evangeline Trail amateur boxing club in Kentville.

“I was one of the wayward kids who was going to get in trouble,” she said in an interview with the Halifax Examiner. “And I had red flags that were going to start marking my standing high if I didn’t straighten up. And Bryan straightened me out.

Before becoming a coach, Gibson boxed for Canada at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. After retiring from in-ring competition, he returned to Kentville with his family where he founded the Evangeline Trail Amateur Boxing Club with his late wife, Terri.

On Thursday, Peerless, now a graphic designer, unveiled an art mural she created to be displayed on the side of the King’s Arm pub in downtown Kentville. The mural pays homage to Gibson’s life and boxing career.

A crowd gathers to view a mural showing the likeness of Kentville boxing trainer and former Olympian Bryan Gibson

A crowd gathered outside the King’s Arm Pub in Kentville on Thursday for a ceremony to unveil a mural celebrating Kentville Olympian and boxing trainer Bryan Gibson. Photo: Matthew Byard.

“I have seen this man, Bryan, dedicate his life to his boxing club to produce several outstanding athletes,” Peerless told the crowd at the unveiling of the mural. “I saw her constantly pushing for women’s boxing to receive the recognition and consideration it deserved. Bryan openly started a debate within Boxing Nova Scotia to defend him, which had a huge impact on myself and other female boxers.

“It has become part of my life”

Two black and white photos of a young black man posing in a boxing stance with fight gloves

Photos: Bryan Gibson

Gibson, 74, is the third oldest of nine siblings, who were born and raised in the rural black community of Gibson Woods, outside Kentville.

He took up boxing at the age of 21 after moving to Montreal with his wife Terri.

“I had a cousin named Jackie Clemens, who was from Bridgetown. He was fighting pro and training. I just went to the gym, just to work out and meet people, and then I got into it,” said said Gibson.

“It really grew in me, I really enjoyed it and it became a part of my life. I just loved doing it.

It wasn’t long before he started collecting accolades in the sport.

“When I started boxing, I was five times champion of Quebec, three times champion of Eastern Canada, twice Canadian (champion) and once North American (champion), and once a finalist, and I fought in the Pan Am Games in Mexico,” he said.

“And I also went to East Berlin, where I won a bronze medal.”

One of the highlights of his career was representing Canada at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Gibson was still living in Montreal at the time. His wife had just given birth to their second child, just four days before he was ready to compete.

“Well, after the Olympics I was 28 and had a family…my wife and two boys and I had to think about them,” he said.

“I sacrificed a lot, and Terri sacrificed a lot because when I was away I had to take time off. No support from the government or anyone. And so she kind of suffered too from my absence and not getting anything, you know, in terms of money. I have to congratulate her for staying with me.

Left photo (black and white): Bryan and Terri Gibson on their wedding day.  Right photo: Terri and Bryan Gibson with Dave Downey, former professional boxer and member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.  -- Photos: Bryan Gibson.

Left photo: Bryan and Terri Gibson on their wedding day. Right photo: Terri and Bryan Gibson with Dave Downey, former professional boxer and member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. Photos: Bryan Gibson.

After they returned to Kentville, Gibson said it was Terri who encouraged him to start his own boxing club. Gibson told the crowd at the unveiling of the mural that he first ran the Evangeline Trail boxing club from the trunk of his car, at three different schools, three nights a week, from 1983 to 1985.

He restarted the club when he was offered a permanent location in the basement of the Kentville Recreation Center in 1987.

In 1991, he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame.

Gibson became a level five boxing trainer. Terri has worked as the club’s secretary, assisted doctors and physicians with medical examinations for boxing matches, developed match schedules, and officiated amateur matches as a level four judge.

Gibson then became a referee and followed in his wife’s footsteps as a judge and medical assistant.

Terri passed away in 2020, just after production of the mural began. The mural features an inscription by Terri that reads “Hugs + Kisses Love Terri-Anne”.

The mural

Canadian Olympian Bryan Gibson delivers a speech at the unveiling of a mural in Kentvilee celebrating his life and career as a boxer and boxing trainer

Canadian Olympian Bryan Gibson speaks at the unveiling of a mural in Kentville celebrating his life and career as a boxer and boxing trainer. Photo: Matthew Byard.

“This idea came about as an attempt to show my former boxing coach the love and support he deserves,” Peerless told the crowd at the unveiling of the mural.

She said the idea for the mural originated in 2019 from a social media post where Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow and Councilman Pauline Raven were discussing the need for more murals in town.

“I took the opportunity to insert that maybe we should have a mural honoring Bryan Gibson,” she said. “It was just me trying to show my appreciation for everything he did for me. But I also knew he was still into boxing, which meant he touched a lot of other young people in this area at the same time.

Jaimie Peerless and Bryan Gibson

Jaimie Peerless and Bryan Gibson. Photo: Matthew Byard.

Peerless found several sponsors to help fund the mural and she secured a spot next to the King’s Arm Pub, which is close to the Evangeline Trail Boxing Club. Peerless designed the mural and mounted it with her husband and business partner, Aaron Peerless, and a group of volunteers.

“When I posted the message on social media, I was almost instantly overwhelmed with the amount of support I had and the number of people who came out of the woodwork and told the same kind of story as me,” Peerless said. crowd at Thursday’s event. “And Bryan had changed their lives for the better.”

Other speakers at the unveiling included Emily Lutz, Deputy Mayor of Kings County, Cate Savage, Deputy Mayor of Kentville, and Gibson’s brother, Craig Gibson, who spoke on behalf of the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association (VANSDA). The event was hosted by Mike Butler and two-time Canadian National Women’s Boxing Champion Jennifer Holleman, who Gibson also coached. Grade 8 student Naomi Fagan, who helped create the mural, read a poem at the unveiling.

“If you want to be good, you have to sacrifice a lot and you need someone behind you to help you out,” Gibson said. “Similar to this, a mural that Jaimie did for me. It was her idea. It never would have happened without her.”

“If you’re going to be successful in any sport, you’re going to have to work hard and you’re going to have to make sacrifices, and you’ll get out of it what you put into it.”

Right photo: Black and white photo of a black man wearing boxing gloves and a Maple Leaf tank top punching a speed bag.  Photo on the right: Close-up black and white photo of a black man (the same man but older) training a young boxer/

Photo left: Bryan Gibson photo from the 1976 Montreal Olympics / Photo right: Bryan Gibson as a level five amateur boxing trainer. Photos: Bryan Gibson.

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Naomi C. Amerson