Rob Nichols grew up in Bonnyville, Alberta on a farm and knew nothing about boxing besides the fact that he got to watch it on TV with his grandfather on one of the only few channels that they had.
Nichols was approached by a friend of his whose father was a local boxing coach who suggested that he try boxing instead of playing baseball. Nichols was 250 pounds at the age of 19 and his boxing training had dropped him down to 200 pounds in just a few months and he was able to keep it off. But he did have some difficulties. Being in a small town in western Canada there was not much competition but that changed when he decided to move to Edmonton to go to school and work. Nichols had 3 fights before he moved to Edmonton then he met up with trainer Benny Swanson who at the time was just starting up at the Panther Gym in downtown Edmonton. Swanson trained Nichols for the remained of his amateur career.
Nichols had a total of 9 amateur fights since moving to Edmonton and finished with a total of 8 wins with 1 loss. Nichols would attend tournaments but would have a difficult time actually competing with opponents pulling out of the tournament knowing that they were going to face him, which made him realize that an amateur career was not what he needed and that he would eventually turn pro. His amateur career went from 1999 to 2008.
His first professional fight was in 2008 and then fought two more times in 2009. Unfortunately for him one of those fights in 2009 was also his first loss of his career. The first punch that he took in the fight popped his eardrum. He knew something was wrong but he continued fighting throughout the remainder of the fight but was unable to be effective with his equilibrium out of whack. He learned from his loss and moved on.
During the beginning of his professional career his life outside of boxing began to change as well. Nichols got married and had two children and he started his own business which took up a majority of his time. Nichols ended up taking three years off but was eager to make his return because shelf life on a fighter only lasts so long. Some fighters are able to defy age but a majority of fighters have only so long.
When Nichols came back to fighting he was not happy. He was already working from 9-9 and had very little time to refine his skills but he stuck to it. In March of 2012 he fought against Ken Frank who outweighed him by 86 pounds. Nichols won that fight by out-boxing Frank and getting a TKO victory in the 3rd round even thought the height, reach, and weight of Frank was a disadvantage to Nichols.
Nichols’ last fight was in March of 2013 when he fought undefeated Jarred Kilkenny winning by a 2nd round knockout.
On Saturday April 27th, I met up with Nichols at the Panther Gym in Edmonton and went out to lunch with him and some of his training partners; including his trainer Sterling Craig who also trains Edmonton cruiserweight prospect Paul “P-Mac” Mackenzie.
I spoke to Craig and Nichols about the sparring sessions between Nichols and Mackenzie and they both said the same thing. It’s brutal. Nichols provides the strength to help Mackenzie to deal with power punchers and Mackenzie provides the speed to help Nichols with maintaining his defense.
Nichols is a cruiserweight fighter but the majority of his fights have been held at heavyweight. He has been given a role as a somewhat “giant slayer” but looks to return to the cruiserweight division for a level playing field. Currently he is a free agent. I asked him why he chose to be a free agent and his answer was short and honest. “I want to make the decisions on who I fight,” said Nichols. As far as his when his next fight will take place it is possible that he will be fighting this July or September. One thing is for sure; he plans on fighting as much as possible.
Closing out the lunch he spoke on a serious note with me. “Win or lose, I am happy with where I am at. I will not live in regret for not trying and wondering what if or what could have happened.”