12/29/2014 03:39 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST

Kingsley Alexander gives back to his community through boxing

For many people who are lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of the holiday season, it is a time of excess — an abundance of cocktails and a seemingly infinite supply of food and treats. 

But for Kingsley Alexander, a Mississauga-based middleweight boxer, it's a time to train his body and mind. 

"Mental toughness is the biggest part of the game," says Alexander, 21. He's hoping to compete at the 2015 Pan Am Games, considered a prime breeding ground for some of the country's top Olympic athletes, in July.

CBC Toronto caught up with Alexander at the gym as part of our 5 to Watch series. 

He's even put off college to intensify his training regime. But boxing wasn't always in the cards for Alexander, who began his athletic career on ice.

"I was a AAA hockey player for about seven or eight years," he recalls. "One of the kids on my team suggested I work out with a boxing trainer to bring up my cardio and my fitness."

Alexander's decision to pursue boxing training would lead him to coach Chris Johnson, who won a bronze medal in men's boxing at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. 

Johnson has helped sculpt Alexander into a lean, fast and potentially devastating athletic machine. Training for life in the ring, Johnson says, is unlike almost any other sport because the stakes are so high.

"My coach once told me that this is the only sport you don't play. I said, 'what do you mean?' And he said, 'Every time you step out there your life and your health is on the line."

The lesson has not been lost on Alexander, who is passing on his success in the ring to the next generation of young boxers.

Giving back

Alexander coaches 11-year-old Marshall Edgar, who lives with autism. 

Marshall's father David Edgar says the training has been a deeply enriching experience for his son.

"He really has taken Marshall under his wing. Autistic kids take a little extra effort. I shouldn't say a little — a lot of effort to sit and get to know them," he told CBC Toronto. 

"To make sure you're paying attention to cues and hearing them because they don't communicate in standard ways. He has been great for Marshall."

Alexander also frequently donates his time to Boxing Ontario, the governing for amateur boxing in the province. 

With only months left to qualify and prepare for the Pan Am Games, Alexander is hitting the gym particularly hard. The payoff? Being able to represent his country, his sport and his community on the international stage, he says.