Never giving up the fight

Boxer turned mental health worker shares struggle

By Gaven Crites

At the time, you wouldn’t have thought much of Trevor Moyah.

Fifteen year ago, living in the west side of Edmonton, Trevor was addicted to drugs, he lost his job, had no money, no family, no place really to call home. For years his life was a downward spiral. It was a deep and dark and sad place. But, as his story reveals, people can change.

Trevor grew up in Edmonton with four siblings, raised by a single mother. The family lived in a lower-income kind of complex, Trevor explains.

His father was already out of the picture when Trevor was still very young. He was an abusive man and his mother left him and took the children.

The family has First Nations roots. His mother, Esther, is from the Frog Lake reserve in eastern Alberta.

She spent part of her youth in residential school. Her experience there was such that she has never been ready to talk about it.

Esther worked hard and made a decent life for her five children, including one adopted little sister.

Trevor though had to grow up much faster than most people.

At 17, while still in high school, he got a girlfriend pregnant and became the father of a baby boy. He got a job after that, moved out of his mom’s house, and found an apartment in Spruce Grove, a small city just west of Edmonton.

In Spruce Grove is where he would become acquainted with one of the longest and most fulfilling loves of his live: boxing.

Trevor reminisces about those days with an easy smile on his face.

He was a 205-pound teenager when he first walked into a boxing gym. Teammates from his school’s football team invited him. He fell in love with the sport right away.

A coach noticed he was picking up the skills of the sweet science rather quickly. He was sparring after a week.

He dropped 30 pounds in four months and started fighting as an amateur when he was 18.

A couple of fights later he was down in weight to 165 pounds and then down to 156.

Nothing beats a boxing workout, he can attest to that.

“I lived in the gym,” he recalls.

“It takes a lot of hard work, over and over again, to get your skills right. After I was done in the gym, I felt great.”

The gym was also a place where he found friends.

The coaches were father figures to him, something he never had really growing up.

All told, Trevor had 19 amateur fights between the ages of 18 and 24.

Boxing was a big part of his life at that point. But he also had a young and growing family to take care of and a lot of personal and financial pressures to take on as well.

He remembers quite a scene when his wife at the time was pregnant with a second boy.

He was entered in a big provincial tournament and was slated to fight near the end of the card.

Then someone got on the public address system and let it be known his wife was at the hospital in labour.

The tournament organizers moved his fight up and he quickly slid his gloves on and got ready to jump in the ring so he could then make a dash for the hospital.

“I don’t think I won that fight,” he says, able to look back and laugh about it now. (At the hospital he found out it was a false alarm.)

In the bigger picture though, he was trying to figure out what to do with his life. He worked odd jobs but they didn’t pay very well.

He and his wife split up. He started down the dark path. Partying and drinking and drugs led to heavier partying and drinking and drugs.

“Back then, I was hanging out with the wrong people,” he says.

In the end, it turned into an addiction, something he couldn’t shake.

Recalling that period in his life, his expression turns to sadness. He speaks quietly.

The words feel like a real and sober warning about following in his path.

“It was horrible,” he says. “I still had the desire. I wanted to box, but I was too wrapped up in my substance abuse.”

He tried and tried but he couldn’t escape this world. It took nearly five years before he was able to get clean and get his life back on track.

Looking back on that time, in his mid-twenties and pushing 30, he wanted to change the way he was living but he didn’t know how. He felt like he was always getting pulled back in.

In the end, his faith in God saved him. He read the book of Mormon and the words in there changed his life. He’s been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever since. His faith helped him get sober and stay sober. He found a new path forward, a path that, before long, led him back into a boxing gym.

“I missed boxing and I started training. A big part of my recovery was working out. That really helped me to stay clean.”

Trevor, 30 at the time, hadn’t had a fight in close to five years. He lost his first fight back, but won his second.

He turned professional shortly after that.

Meanwhile, with a renewed attitude on life, bolstered by his faith and dedication to his craft in the ring, Trevor returned to school and began studying for a career as a mental health clinician working with children and youth.

“It was a good time in my life,” he says.

Over a four-year period fighting in rings around Alberta, Trevor “the Destroya” Moyah had a combined record of three wins, five loses and one draw.

Perhaps more important though than his wins and losses as a middleweight boxer was the positive influence the sport had, and continues to have, on his life.

Throughout his journey in the fight game Trevor met and trained with some outstanding athletes.

One of them was Ken Lakusta, a popular Edmonton pugilist in the 1980s. Lakusta was Trevor’s trainer and promoter for a good part of his career. Interestingly, Lakusta, whose own storied career spanned two decades, worked as a sparring partner for Mike Tyson in preparation for Tyson’s historic upset loss to Buster Douglas in Japan in 1990.

That same year, Lakusta fought George Forman. While Forman would knock Lakusta down twice and win the exciting slugfest by knockout in the third round, Lakusta was able to wobble the iconic heavyweight champion for a moment, throwing and landing a surprise right hand after getting up from the canvas.

The financial benefits of pro boxing were another bonus for Trevor around that time.

Boxing paid for his honeymoon and, as he likes to say, it was “in the ring” where he made the money to buy his new wife a wedding ring.

Trevor met Ginger in 2006, just as he was launching his pro career, at a Shakespeare in the Park event, a city-wide church function in Edmonton.

He went with a friend, but the two got separated somehow, and when it came time to find his seat, Trevor’s friend was nowhere to be found. The only seat available was next to Ginger, he recalls.

“We started talking and we talked through the whole thing,” Trevor says.

“I liked what was on stage, but more importantly, I liked talking to Ginger.”

Today, the couple have two boys together, a seven-year-old and a five-year-old. Ginger is a teacher at 100 Mile House Elementary School.

Now 40, Trevor can appreciate the present by looking back on the past.

He dealt with a lot of pain in his day. Pain in the ring to be sure, but an even tougher fight was the pain he had to overcome in his personal life.

“My life is great now,” he says. “I love my life today.”

This is said in such a way it’s impossible not to believe him.

“I love my life today,” he repeats.

Trevor is now finishing a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

He’s been working for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in 100 Mile House as a mental health clinician for close to two years, spending his days working with children and youth in the community, helping them with their own personal issues, with things like anxiety and depression.

In other words, he’s now helping others work through their own personal pain.

Outside of the office, Trevor has found a little boxing gym in town where he likes to train when he can find the time.

He’s been out of the ring for five years and is quite the family man these days. In the gym, his hands are still good, fast and powerful and accurate.

He’d love to embark on a second comeback journey, revenge a bitter loss or two, retire on a win. But he promised Ginger he wouldn’t fight again, so he won’t. Even though he wants to… badly.

His dream now is to open a boxing gym of his own someday so he can train a younger generation of boxers and let them experience the same positive things the sport did for him.

He’s in the helping business now. He knows firsthand that people can change for the better, especially with a positive influence like boxing in their life. In fact, the university thesis paper he is currently writing is about just that.

“That’s why I love boxing,” he says.

“It creates change. Many of the youth I interviewed [for my thesis] said boxing helped them by giving them confidence, by helping them change their perception about who they are, giving them an identity, helping them create relationships, helping them with their self-confidence and learning discipline and hard work and the countless things boxing has helped people with.”

“That’s one thing I want people to know – people can change,” Trevor adds.

“In my job, that’s what I have to believe. People are able to change. If I don’t think that, how am I going to help them?”