Young Queensland boxer Dana Coolwell admits he has experienced the dark side of life too often, far too soon.
He drank alcohol at age 12. At 13, he was mourning the sudden death of his father Russell. At 14, he took drugs. At 18, he could easily have been in prison or suffered a more tragic fate.
That Coolwell is Australia’s super featherweight champion at 23 – a decade after his life fell apart – speaks to the The Sunshine Coast slugger’s determination to overcome incalculable odds thrive in a sport that has proven itself.
On Wednesday night, Coolwell (7-1, 5KO) celebrates the high point of his young roller coaster life.
The Beerwah native fighter will be the main event on a Fox Sports card when he takes on undefeated Venezuelan Ender ‘The Tiger’ Luces (16-0, 14KOs) for the IBF Youth Title at Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane.
Coolwell can’t imagine his rapid rise…especially considering the trauma behind his downfall.
“It’s hard to say what was the hardest thing. I saw it all at a very young age,” Coolwell says as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career against the dangerous Luces.
“I saw domestic violence, my father’s death, drugs and alcohol.” When I lost my father, I started to play a little. You wake up one day and realize that your father will never be here again.
“I lost my way.
“I had drugs around me. I was doing marijuana. I drank alcohol. When I was young, I tried things I thought I was cool, but looking back, it was completely stupid.
“That’s why I’m grateful to be where I am today. I had my first fight a year after losing my dad and my trainer Steve Pitt was more than just my trainer, he became a father figure to me.
“If it hadn’t been for boxing, I don’t know where I would be.”
When Coolwell was last at Fortitude Music Hall in December, he walked out with the national super featherweight belt. as one of the rising talents of Australian boxing.
Ranked No. 6 in his division behind Australia’s top dog Liam Wilson, Coolwell’s work ethic is admirable. In nine years of training with Pitt, he never missed a session. He was once two minutes late, rushing into the Hinterland Boxing Club in his underwear.
“Beating Miles to win the national title was incredible,” he said. “All the hard work and early morning mornings, it was so good to get a reward for it.
“Some mornings I get up at 3am to run before I go to work. I start at a bakery at 4:30am, then I’m at the gym around 4pm and when the workout is over, I come home at 7pm. and it all starts again the next day.
“It’s hard to wake up some days, but my end goal is to win a world title and I believe I can.” That’s why I do this sport.”
Coolwell knows he has to find another level to get rid of Luces, a South American southpaw with an 87% kill knockout rate.
“It’s definitely the biggest fight of my career,” he said. “The plan is to stop him in the later rounds. He’s bigger and has heavy hands, so I have to watch myself early and break him down slowly with cluster punches. My jab is my best punch. I plan to use it a lot.
“I run a Fox Sports show, so I want to test myself and prove that I’m world class. Taking fights like this is the only way to get better.