IBO Boxing World Champion Manny Sobral

 

When walking into Manny Sobral’s boxing classes at Diaz Combat Sports (DCS), students gain a deep understanding of boxing fundamentals. What you don’t learn while conquering the basics, is that coach Sobral has an even deeper resume during both his amateur career as an Olympian boxer for Canada, and a prolific professional career, amassing a 27-2, with 15 KO’s record, an IBO Welterweight World Title, and Canadian championship to boot.

Known as Manny “The Teacher” Sobral, he was a high-school teacher by day, world class fighter by night.

 

Highlight of Manny “the Teacher” Sobral

 

Manny began boxing at the at of 13, and just a year later was taken under the wing of legendary coach George Angelomatis. Though he trains fighters in a state-of-the-art facility today, his beginnings were just block’s away at the Astoria Boxing Club.“George was a strong believer that you get what you put it, and thus, so am I,” Manny said of his work ethic. “You get out of training what you put in, so a lot of it is up to you.”

As a teen, everyday he would be training in the basement of the Astoria hotel on Hastings and Heatley, a gym that trained over 10 amateur national champions, Sobral included. It was under the florescent lights and peeling paint of the basement gym where he built an amateur resume that saw Sobral represent his country at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and win five international gold medals for team Canada in tournaments in Italy, Venezuela, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia (then Yugoslavia in 1987).

Before going pro in 1992, Sobral had over 180 amateur fights to his credit, only 11 defeats.

 

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Manny Sobral boxing in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.

 

In a career year in 1988, he was voted boxer of the tournament in the National Championships, beating out boxing legend, teammate and eventual Olympic gold medalist Lennox Lewis.

 

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The 1988 Canadian Olympic Boxing Team

 

Before representing Canada at the Olympics, Manny honed the maple leaf trunks scoring a win in Bulgaria against then worlds best amateur boxer Fransic Vastag. A man that walked into the ring with an astonishing 385 wins against just 17 losses. While his nickname “The Teacher” holds true, like many good teachers, continuing to learn was always a priority.

As an active professional fighter, Manny furthered his learning as a student at SAN Diego University completing his Master of Education in 2000. All the while continuing the trend of training after school.

 

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Manny with boxing Legend Muhammad Ali

 

It was that year he began with the Vancouver School Board (VSB), starting in at Aries Program working with indigenous youth. Fast forward to today, before coaching his athletes at DCS, Sobral works for the Summit Program, outreach education aiding at risk youth. After four decades in the sport, it is imparting knowledge to eager students that keeps him in boxing.

“I love the students at DCS because they’re like sponges,” he explained “They want to learn more and more about the intricacies of the sweet science.”

 

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Manny Sobral with boxing Icon Evander Holyfield

Moving to the professional ranks in ‘92, Sobral spent the next four years doing one thing, winning. Fighting across western Canada and Washington state, he built a perfect 20-0 record, winning the Canadian super welterweight title on the way with a third-round knockout of Del Ritchie in 1995 in Edmonton.This moved the former amateur standout to his biggest match since turning pro, a world championship fight.

On December 12, 1996, undefeated Manny Sobral faced Aaron McLaurine for the International Boxing Organization (IBO) super welterweight title.The match took place at the PNE Pacific Coliseum on Hastings street, bus stops away from the Astoria Hotel, where his boxing story began.

It was on that night, Sobral achieved what so few do, win a world championship. After twelve hard fought rounds, the fight was won by unanimous decision, putting the championship belt around his waist.

 

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Manny Sobral doing pad work at boxing class

 

The accomplishment was made sweeter given the location, East Vancouver, and the crowd, filled with friends, colleagues, family and fans who had followed him and seen him fight since he first laced the gloves at 13. Still going by his coach Angelomatis’ “get what you put in” mentality, there was no resting on his laurels for Sobral, who took little time to return to both training and his studies.

Just three months later, Sobral came back with a boom! In the first defense of his IBO championship he knocked out Chris Weston in the second round, dropping his opponent down three times before he could not answer the count of ten.

 

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Manny with boxing Legend Sugar Ray Leonard

 

Manny’s career would go on with great success for another four years, including splitting a thrilling series of fights with thunderous puncher Tony “Bad Boy” Badea. Following a two-year retirement, he returned for one fight with soon-to-be unified, multi-time world champion Mikkel Kessler.

Taking no time to take shake the ring-rust off, Sobral moved up two weight-classes and travelled to Denmark to face Kessler, 24-0, 17KO’s at the time. Though he came up short, he had no issue having a competitive fight, two weight classes too heavy against a future hall of famer after two years away from the sport. This defines his mentality “you get what you put in.”

Kessler would go on to unify the WBC and WBA super middleweight world titles just years later, while Sobral scored many victories outside the ring following a legendary career. Not competing as an athlete, he was not far from the ring, being an integral part of building the professional boxing scene in the lower mainland. Since retirement he was a successful promoter, putting on over 12 professional boxing shows at the River Rock and Hard Rock Casino (then named Boulevard Casino) with West Coast Promotions.

His success as a promoter was surpassed by his coaching career, which was a true environment for “The Teacher” to impart knowledge, training many successful amateur and professional fighters. For anyone who walks into DCS looking to box, Manny will be ready every Monday to impart his knowledge to his always energetic, enthusiastic students.

Written by Lev Jackson