'I always get back up after I fall': Stroke survivor vows to return to the ring as a boxing coach
EDMONTON -- Albert Liaw teaches boxing, and it's not unusual for him to take a tumble during training sessions with students.
"Whenever that happens I say, 'Good job. It means you're hitting me hard.'" said Liaw.
Long before becoming a coach, Liaw was a talented athlete, a high-level ballroom dancer and amateur boxer.
“From conversations I've had with previous coaches, he was one of the most athletic guys they've seen. Just raw talent,” said Tony Nguyen, who owns F.R.E.E. Fitness Gym, where Liaw works.
"It was all consuming. It was my life. I boxed eight hours a day," says Liaw, who was a late bloomer in the sport. He didn’t start until he was 28 years old.
"The feeling of punching somebody and getting punched is second to none."
Liaw taught, trained and sparred almost every day until his life changed drastically 13 years ago.
“I was overtraining for a fight…and one day a blood vessel burst in my head and boom!"
He suffered a major stroke Dec. 23, 2006.
“It was horrible. There were times in my life that I thought about killing myself. I just didn’t want to go on. I could barely even walk. ”
Every dayis a challenge for Liaw. He shook off the suicidal thoughts and credits his family with helping him find purpose in life. He never stopped thinking about returning to boxing as a coach.
Just over a year ago, he met Tony Nguyen and trainer Ty Khan and started working out.
"He was telling me that he wanted to get into coaching. I was like, 'Man we got to work on some things then right?'" said Nguyen.
They focused on improving his balance and coordination because Liaw needed to be able to train people without the use of a walker.
Trainer Ty Khan says Liaw has improved dramatically. “It’s been amazing. I couldn't imagine where he is now. I didn't know if we were going to get to the point where he could box."
Liaw recently received his Level 1 coaching certificate, allowing him to be hired as the club’s first boxing coach.
“It was super amazing. I was jumping up and down. Well, what I consider jumping up and down," joked Liaw.
His next goal is to climb up the coaching ladder and reach the highest level he can.
Liaw eventually wants to get back in the ring as a coach.
"I'm so excited to see what I can do in the long haul."
He’s been down before, but as Khan says, “Albert gets back up."