Ethan Hunter, right, and boxing coach Bryce Poorter after Ethan's boxing debut in Bendigo last month.

By Colin MacGillivray

WALLAN’S Ethan Hunter achieved a long-held dream when he made his boxing debut last month, receiving his first ever sporting medal.

Hunter, who has autism, joined Wallan trainer Bryce Poorter’s House of Stoush Boxing Academy about four years ago and Poorter said his young charge had made terrific progress.

“His father saw the gym and thought it might be good for him to burn off some steam,” Poorter said.

“When he came to the gym to start with, he would hide behind the bags and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Now he comes in and gives everyone a hug.

“He was so reserved when he came in, but now he’s there every night like clockwork. It makes you feel good to see that, that’s for sure.”

Poorter said Hunter had bonded with the gym’s regulars.

“He’s gone from not talking to anyone to being one of the favourite members of the gym. Everyone looks out for him and he explains what we’re doing to the new guys,” he said.

“When he first came I wasn’t sure how he would react getting hit, but he handled himself really well.”

Hunter, 18, travelled to Bendigo for his first fight last month, and Poorter said he was thrilled to make his boxing debut.

“He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t had a fight earlier. He was very excited for it,” Poorter said.

“They were quite evenly matched. The other kid was a 15-year-old from Bendigo, and he did really well.

“I was a bit concerned with 350 people in the crowd and music going that it could trigger him a little bit, but he listened to everything I said.

“He told me a story that he’s never won a trophy or an award because he’s never played any competitive sports, so we had one made for him and he was rapt to win his first medal.”

Mr Poorter said Hunter had plenty of support during his fight.

“A heap of people from the gym came and watched him, because he’s been in the gym for about four years, so everyone has trained with him for a long time. It was good that they all supported him as well,” he said.

“Everyone loves him. He’s a big, strong-looking fella, but he still runs around and plays hide and seek with my 10-year-old son.”