Boxing might be the most theatrical of all sports, equally tragic, dramatic, and comedic; the sport can captivate audiences much like the silver screens of Hollywood. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that early on Dale Walters lived two lives within these disparate worlds before choosing the tough road of the fight game over the flashbulbs and red carpets of celebrity.
Following in the footsteps of father Len, himself a BCSHFM Honoured Member and one of Canada’s great boxers of the early 1950s, Walters began boxing at age six winning numerous Emerald, Silver, and Golden Gloves Championships that included nearly 50 straight victories as a Junior in the 1970s.
Through his teens, Walters also pursued an aspiring acting career often competing against a young Michael J. Fox for roles and landing the starring role in Ritter’s Cove, a Beachcombers spin-off. He also won a leading role in a Huckleberry Finn miniseries that aired in the US. When boxing and acting commitments began to conflict, the lure of the ring proved strongest and Walters dove into his boxing pursuits full bore.
Possessing a stinging left jab and lightning hand and foot speed, Walters won three straight senior BC Golden Gloves championships in the early 1980s. He began making waves nationally winning the 54kg bantamweight Canadian championship three straight years from 1982-84, earning the Outstanding Boxer in Canada distinction each of those years. In his first international fight at the 1982 World Championships, Walters surprised all experts by defeating the reigning world champion Slavimir Zabart of Poland, before finishing eleventh.
His rise was not without adversity though. At the 1982 Commonwealth Games, where he was favoured to medal, a controversial judging decision eliminated him from the tournament early—a similar fate suffered by his father 32 years earlier at the British Empire Games in Brisbane. Another controversial decision knocked him out of the 1983 Pan American Games.
Going into the 1984 Olympics, Walters was ranked ninth in the world, coming off two huge victories. At the Stockholm Open, an eight-nation tournament, Walters won gold in the 57kg featherweight division and was voted the tournament’s Outstanding Boxer. He followed up with a decisive victory over Todd Hickman, the world’s number two-ranked bantamweight, in a pre-Olympic Canada vs. USA dual meet.
The highlight of Walters’ career came at the Los Angeles Olympics where he captured a bronze medal in the 54kg bantamweight division—Canada’s first Olympic boxing medal in 52 years since Horace ‘Lefty’ Gwynne punched his way to gold.
Walters capped his amateur career with an impressive victory over newly crowned US national champion Lyndon Walker, finishing up with an amateur record of 165 wins and 12 losses. The victory came at huge cost as Walters suffered a broken hand that would hinder the rest of his career. Turning professional, Walters amassed seven victories and only a single loss to Tony Pep in one of Vancouver’s most memorable bouts of the past thirty years.
After retiring from competition, Walters combined his on-camera talents with his boxing experience serving as a broadcaster for many world championship fights. In addition, Walters established a boxing and fitness facility in Vancouver known as Ringside Fitness. And just for good measure, he also jumped into the Guinness Book of World Records by completing over 500 straight “doubles” with a skipping rope.
Inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996, Walters’ place within Canadian boxing lore is secure. While his acting ambitions may have briefly sparred with his interest in boxing before falling by the ringside, Walters did play the role of champion rather well between the ropes.
Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.