Professional boxer, security officer, and dad: OPG’s Tony Luis wears many belts
In and out of the ring, Tony Luis has made a habit of overcoming adversity.
By day, the Cornwall native works as a security officer at OPG’s R.H. Saunders Generating Station, ensuring the safety and security of the facility, its employees, and community members.
By night, the professional boxer, nicknamed “The Lightning,” spends upwards of 20 hours a week training and honing his reflexes for his next bout with the help of his father, Jorge, who acts as his coach and manager.
On top of that already busy slate, he also makes sure to give back to his community by working part-time to help mentor struggling youth at the Laurencrest Youth Residence in Cornwall.
“The values I have in my life now may not have come to the surface sooner had I not been tested through boxing,” said Luis. “You have to be a little crazy to be a fighter. Whether that’s work ethic, discipline, or having to respond to adversity. My philosophy is if there’s a problem, find three different solutions. Because there’s always a second chance, another way around the problem.”
His life so far reads almost like a script for the next Rocky movie.
He discovered boxing as a young child when, one day, he decided to look through some old VHS tapes he found in his parents’ basement. On those grainy home videos, he saw his father boxing for the first time – a past life his dad intended to keep hidden away from his son.
From that first encounter, Luis was hooked, and his passion grew. He started training when he was nine years old, with his father coming out of boxing retirement to serve as coach. And by 12 he had his first of more than 100 amateur contests.
He turned pro at 20, and there have been many glitzy highs since then, including televised fights in Las Vegas, and winning the World Boxing Council’s Continental Americas title in the lightweight division three times, as well as the North American title. Over his career, he has racked up 29 wins, four losses, and 10 knockouts.
But Luis has also faced his share of challenges as well, including several losses earlier in his career that sent him back to the drawing board, his young son’s autism diagnosis, and the sudden death of his mother from a brain aneurism the same year he turned pro – 11 days, in fact, before his third professional fight.
Boxing, he said, was what helped channel his grief and energy toward something productive after the sudden loss of his mom. And he’s now helping at-risk youth today do the same by channeling their anger away from self-destructive tendencies.
“My mom wasn’t a big supporter of my boxing earlier on, but she came around when she saw the positive impact it had on my life,” he said. “I didn’t want to undo all that after her death. I had to honour her.”
His steadfast approach in the face of adversity is also what led to his career at OPG, which he began earlier this year. Luis originally applied for the OPG security role two years ago, but didn’t get the job. But he kept his eye out and applied again when a new opportunity arose, and this time he succeeded.
Coming from his previous career in social work, which required a lot of shift work, this new role at OPG has been a “breath of fresh air.” It has given him more time to devote to his family and five-year-old son, Miguel, and focus on his boxing career while also staying connected to his community.
His responsibilities as a security officer include monitoring all incoming and outgoing visitors, patrolling all areas of the Saunders facility, and ensuring people stay clear of OPG’s operations on the St. Lawrence River.
“Growing up in a small town, it’s been interesting running into people you know from the community while on the job and just catching up with them after many years,” he said.
At 32, Luis knows he’s closer to the finish line of his boxing career, and he’s got the scar tissues to prove it. He has to pay closer attention to his body’s needs these days to manage wear and tear. But he says he’ll continue to fight as long as he physically can.
And even when he’s done fighting, boxing will always hold a special place in his heart. He intends to remain involved in the sport, whether that’s coaching, refereeing, or providing colour commentary on TV.
“Right now, with my job at OPG, my boxing, and my involvement with youth, I’m very satisfied and content with what I’m doing,” he said. “But above everything else, I’m a father, and I’m very passionate about trying to be the best version of myself for my son, who is non-verbal but working through it. He’s taught me and his mom a lot about not giving up.”