Although Richard “Dick” Syms was not a boxer when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police transferred him to Fort William in 1927, his broad frame and tough disposition gave him the makings of one. He took up the sport upon his arrival in the city, and developed steadily into a daunting fighter. By 1931, he became the Thunder Bay District Light-Heavyweight champion, a title he would successfully defend in 1932 and 1933. In 1933 he doubled up his title by claiming the Heavyweight championship as well, going on to win the district Heavyweight title in 1937, 1938, and 1939.
In 1938, he claimed the Dominion Heavyweight Championship in a decisive victory. He reportedly made quite a show of the match, dancing away from his 227 pound opponent, gloves by his sides, occasionally waving to an enthusiastic crowd before laying more of his precise left hand jabs onto his lumbering foe. He was also runner-up in the following year’s national championships.
During World War II, he continued to box, claiming the Heavyweight title in both the Manitoba Championships and in Inter-Service bouts in Winnipeg in 1940.
Retiring from active competition in 1944, he devoted himself to building the sport of boxing in Fort William and Port Arthur. He supervised and organized many clubs in the city, including the North Street Boxing Club, the Army and Navy Boxing for boys and the YMCA boxing club. He also obtained new club space in such locations as Braunstein's Store, the Murphy Block, Heath Street School and Alf Batters Warehouse. Hundreds of boys benefitted from his direction and the facilities he was able to provide.
Further, he served his sporting community as a member of the executive of the Thunder Bay branch of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada from 1945 to 1972. He served on committees to promote local boxing and track and field initiatives, as well as the organizing committee for the Ten-Mile Road Race. In this capacity, he also served as an official in the Dominion Boxing Championship when it was staged at the Lakehead in 1947 and 1949.
In 1972, Syms ended a long career of sports organization, and for his efforts he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1985.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 27, 1986