By Deron Hamel
Turning negative experiences into positive action has been an important theme in Jeff Tabrizi’s life.
The 29-year-old boxer from Burlington has had his share of battles – inside and outside of the ring. But looking back, Tabrizi says those battles made him stronger and helped shape him into who he is today.
At age four, he began having seizures. At one point, he was having nearly 20 seizures a day. It was later discovered he had a benign brain tumour.
While the tumour was successfully removed, Tabrizi says other children bullied him and singled him out as “the weird one and not like everyone else” because of the conditions he lived with.
“I would get made fun of a lot and that’s what I believe made me really tough, even up until today,” he says. “All that hardship I had to go through then, it just gave me a lot of strength now, and it has made me strong mentally and physically.”
And there’s a lesson children living with a seizure disorder can learn from him, Tabrizi says, and that’s to not let personal hardships get the better of you.
In fact, people can use those challenges to their advantage, he says.
Because of the bullying he endured at school, Tabrizi says he often found himself having to defend himself with his fists. It was something he proved to be good at, so he decided to channel his fighting abilities into something constructive.
Boxing was a natural fit, and he figured this out at a young age.
“At 7, 8, 9 years old, I was already having the mindset that I wanted to become a fighter, I wanted to become a boxer,” he says. “When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always to be a boxer and to inspire (others) and tell my story.”
Tabrizi also credits Steve Nelson, a North Hollywood, California-based gym owner, who passed away earlier this year, for helping him with his boxing career.
Nelson learned about Tabrizi after watching one of his boxing matches on YouTube in 2015 and flew him to California to help him train and advance his career.
“He saw the positive side of my story and he was touched by it,” Tabrizi says. “He was able to see a side of my life that I never really believed in.”
Tabrizi says he’s hoping children living with epilepsy will hear his story and be able to find their own strengths.
“My advice to them would be to stay strong, stay positive through the hard times, no matter what, and (they should know) there’s a bigger picture,” he says.
“They’ll be able to get through things, just keep your head up (because) there’s a bigger picture than the suffering.”