Burnaby boxer takes on fighter 31-years younger. Wait, what?

It is not your typical boxing match-up.

But it also features not your typical boxer.

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Burnaby’s Eiji Yoshikawa has admitted that he isn’t entering the ring Friday at the Scottish Cultural Centre, facing four-time Canadian welterweight champion Robert Couzens, to win.

The fact that there’s a 31-year age difference between the two is a possible hint to that fact.

Yoshikawa and Couzens – who also hails from Burnaby – will don the gloves and boxing gear in a preliminary bout at the Vancouver hall to showcase the sport. It’s also, in Yoshikawa’s mind, a chance to promote wellness.

“I’m not Manny Pacquiao,” the 58-year-old Yoshikawa said. “I’m not going in expecting to beat Robert. Am I going to win? No way. But I’m fighting to show I can, to show others how they can overcome difficult challenges.”

A volunteer at the Nikkei Centre in Burnaby, Yoshikawa has helped introduce the art of boxing, the movements, to people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He’s also helped raised money for people in the Philippines, funding the purchase of such things as a bicycle taxi to create an income for the less fortunate.

He approached Couzens, for whom he volunteered last year at one fight as a cornerman, about the exhibition match. The 27-year-old former national champion said it’s hard not to be inspired by the elder’s enthusiasm and personality.

“I’m proud of him,” said Couzens. “He’s a very determined, kind person. I told him I don’t want him to hold anything back, and whenever you step into a boxing ring you expect something bad can happen, but through the years I’ve practiced a lot and know how much power to give and when to hold back.

“We have nothing to prove, but we want this to showcase the sport, to demonstrate some of the finer points of boxing without going all-out.”

Yoshikawa, at 135-pounds, has taken on the tagline “The compassionate pugilist,” and is honest with his expectations. He admits that his preparation for the event has included no sparring.

“I’m jogging, shadow boxing and unlike Rocky Balboa I’m not sparring. When I get in the ring I expect to look really exhausted but my heart is strong,” he said.

He said his friends and supporters from the Nikkei Centre will be on hand, possibly watching with their hands covering their eyes, afraid of what they’ll see.

“Many are coming, and many are worried,” he said with a chuckle.

Having been inspired by Canadian hero Terry Fox as a young man, Yoshikawa was a boxer growing up in Tokyo, He sees the immensity of this challenge as its own reward.

“I wouldn’t call it boxing, but the feeling I get afterwards was just the best thing,” he said, recalling a similar exhibition he did nearly 10 years ago. “It was so satisfying to be there, to be standing.”

The Couzens-Yoshikawa fight is scheduled to open the night's event on July 12, 7 p.m. at the Scottish Cultural Centre, 8886 Hudson St., Vancouver. For info email mamafightVancouver@gmail.com.

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