Boxing with the Bulldog

By Ryan Dutchak

Southern Alberta’s Kainai First Nation has a rich history in the sport of boxing. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, boxing had been growing in popularity on the reserve. Many prominent Kainai boxers established noteworthy careers for themselves during this time, but Eddie First Rider became the first to win a Canadian boxing title.

On April 30, 1963, First Rider, also known as the “Toy Bulldog of Western Canada,” stepped into the boxing ring to challenge the current Canadian welterweight champion, Peter Schmidt. The fight was held in Lethbridge, Alberta at the Exhibition Pavilion. Schmidt was picked as the clear favourite to win. First Rider, well known for his aggressive boxing style, dominated the early stages of the fight; however, the bout lasted all twelve rounds. By the final bell, Schmidt was cut and bleeding from both eyes. The judges deemed First Rider victorious.

A rematch was scheduled for June of the same year. Although the fight took place at the same location, the outcome was different. This time, First Rider suffered a knockout defeat and Schmidt reclaimed the Canadian welterweight crown.

First Rider would not fight again in Lethbridge until November, 1964. Three hundred fans came to the Exhibition Pavilion to witness his return against Montana boxer Al Stenstrud. Stenstrud’s six-inch height and reach advantage made him the early favourite. To counter Stenstrud’s long reach, First Rider utilized the “inside” fighting technique. After seven rounds, First Rider defeated Stenstrud through technical knockout. First Rider’s return to the Lethbridge boxing scene was a success.

Years later, after he had hung up his gloves, First Rider coached young boxers at the Cardston-Bullhorn Boxing Club. As a national champion, First Rider was inducted into the Centennial Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.