2017 Canadian Championships Wrap-Up
By: Kaitlyn Clark
Late last month, the best Junior, Youth, and Elite boxers from across Canada met in Quebec City, for the second consecutive year, with the hopes of punching a ticket to the National Team to start off the 2020 Olympic cycle. This year was unlike any other in recent memory, as a slew of fresh faces shot to the top of the podium on the men’s side, and younger talent rose to prominence on the women’s side.
This year also marked the inaugural year of STING boxing equipment being used as the official equipment supplier for Boxing Canada. The response from athletes and coaches was overwhelmingly positive and STING is proud to supply competition equipment for such talented athletes on their journey towards the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
When the list of men’s participants was released to the public, many notable names were missing including: Brody Blair, Clovis Drolet, Kenny Lally, and Samir El Mais. With Blair and Drolet joining the professional ranks this past year, and Lally and El Mais both hanging up their gloves after storied careers on the National Team, it seemed imminent that this was going to be a year of change. With these athletes not competing, it allowed for others to take center stage – the story here, however, is not in the new faces that are now at the top, but it is in how each of them got there. For the first time in recent memory, 9 of the 10 men’s weight classes saw the National Team member come up short and a new boxer take the forefront; the only male to retain his spot being 2016 Rio Olympian, Arthur Biyarslanov. Of the 9 boxers, the most remarkable performances were turned in by 56kg Eric Basran, and the stacked 60kg division.
The 2017 Canadian Championships marked the first time Eric Basran of British Columbia competed in the Elite class on the National stage, and he made sure to leave a mark. Entering as a relatively unknown boxer into a weight class complete with 2 reigning National Team members, Basran was an underdog from the start. In Basran’s opening fight of the tournament, he showcased his skill and swift movement on his way to a 3-0 decision over Kevin Chauvette of Quebec. His winning ways continued as he took yet another 3-0 decision over reigning Canadian Champion Giovan Mathieu Major, in what could be considered a clinic of how to utilize reach and ring generalship against a shorter opponent; setting up a final, that was sure to be a boxing clinic, between Basran and National Team member Thomas Blumenfeld.
As the fight began, both boxers met in the centre of the ring in what appeared to be a game of chicken; neither man willing to open up. It was Basran, however, who would prove to be the dominant counter puncher, putting on display his superiority when it came to boxing off the ropes. Blumenfeld kept the pressure throughout the fight; however it was Basran’s unconventional head movement, and unpredictable combinations that kept the National Team boxer guessing and unable to find any sort of momentum throughout the first two rounds. Heading into the third round, both boxers new this was it – Blumenfeld needed to corral Basran, and eliminate his ability to angle out, in order to unleash his fury and prove to the judges he was the more dominant boxer; whereas Basran had no choice but to crank up the showmanship, to further frustrate Blumenfeld, and create openings where he could land quick shots. As the final bell rang, you could see sheer exhaustion and mounting anticipation fall over both fighters. As the decision was announced, Basran entered what I can only imagine was a moment of pure ecstasy – he was the new 56kg Canadian Champion by a 2-1 split decision.
While only one man could be declared the winner, the real winner was amateur boxing in Canada. With a strong showing from both young boxers, it is clear that Canada has a real future on the international scene with both Basran and Blumenfeld.
The men’s 60kg division has consistently delivered top class boxing at the Canadian Championships and this year was no exception. Reigning Canadian Champion Lucas Bahdi took on the 2016 Youth Canadian Champion Luis Santana in a hotly contested semi-final bout. The bout had the crowd roaring from the start with neither man giving up an inch over the 9 minute duration of the fight. In the end, it was the more experienced Bahdi who took a 3-0 decision to move onto the finals against a fellow Ontario boxer, and veteran of more than 115 bouts, Rodolfo Valesquez.
While Valesquez is smaller than most 60kg boxers, he has one competitive advantage over every other boxer in the class – his hand speed. Valesquez is a known brawler with extremely quick hands who likes to push the pace from start to finish. In the final bout, he was able to leverage these skills against Bahdi - the larger and more methodical boxing technician. At the end of 3 rounds, Valesquez’s speed and agility proved to be in favour with the judges as he took a 2-1 split decision for the win.
This year, the women’s division saw many repeat champions, proving that experience is advantageous when competing at the National level and beyond. In contrast to the men’s side, the women only saw 3 new champions crowned: Sara-Haghighat-Joo (54kg), Marie-Jeanne Parent (69kg), and Marija Curran (81kg); the most noteworthy being 69kg Marie-Jeanne Parent. The big change that the women’s competition did see was the increased level of talent in the Youth division, specifically Christian Zalenco (51kg).
Marie-Jeanne Parent may be limited in terms of number of bouts, but sometimes strategy overcomes experience. This was the case when this fighter took a big step in her career, by ousting the multi-time Canadian Champion and veteran National Team member of the 69kg weight division, Myriam Da Silva, in a strategic final match-up between two Quebec fighters.
Parent seemed to be out of her groove in her initial fight of the tournament as she took on Carolyn Redmond of Ontario. The bout saw high levels of aggression from Redmond, with Parent countering each attack and using the sly tactic of dropping her knees to the mat in order to force a stop in action to avoid clenching; culminating in a narrowly edged out a 2-1 decision in favour of Parent. In an almost complete 180, in terms of performance standards, Parent showed off her explosiveness and agility in her semi-final contest against fellow Quebecois, Marie-Pier Houle, to take the unanimous decision win and her spot in the finals - setting up a repeat showdown from last year with veteran Myriam Da Silva.
As the two fighters approached the ring, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Both athletes appeared calm, cool, and collected as they approached the center of the ring for the pre-bout stare down. Once the initial bell rang, it was clear that neither boxer wanted to take the risk of opening up too soon. Rounds 1 and 2 saw Da Silva attempting to box on the outside, but never quite committing to any sustained offense, while Parent simply remained stationed in the middle of the ring waiting for the chance to counter with explosive overhands. Heading into round 3, both fighters knew they needed to amp it up as there was no clear winner after the initial rounds. From the start of the third round, it was clear that Parent’s corner had instructed her to move forward with more aggression and throw bigger combinations in order to deter the judges from favouring Da Silva. As the final round progressed, it became clear that Parent was in control of Da Silva; countering the National Team fighters 2 punch attacks with bigger combinations, finishing each one with a power shot. Once the final bell rang, both corners looked confident that their boxer had done enough to grab the victory. As the fighters waited patiently in the center of the ring, the winner was announced by a 2-1, split decision in favour of the young Marie-Jeanne Parent. The crowd erupted in a chorus of cheers for the hometown boxer.
While the bout was not particularly exciting from a spectator point of view, the strategy employed by Marie-Jeanne Parent to take the win over Myriam Da Silva was intelligently crafted, calculated, and, most importantly, successful.
With talk of the 69kg weight class potentially being added to the Olympics for 2020, Canada looks to be in a solid, developmental position heading into the next Olympic cycle with a fresh faced Parent. It is also worth noting, Canada has a strong 69kg youth boxer in Charlie Cavanaugh of New Brunswick, meaning the 69kg weight class could see great international success through the next two Olympic cycles and beyond.
While women’s boxing in Canada has seen large success on the international scene as well as a wealth of talent on the National scene, Canada’s youth women’s division has not seen the same level of depth. However, with boxers such as the aforementioned Charlie Cavanaugh and 51kg Christian Zalenco gaining momentum, Canada’s future seems bright.
It is safe to say that the 2017 Canadian Championships did not disappoint. With a large number of fresh faces joining the men’s National Team and a few key younger women starting their journey on the international scene, there are high hopes for Team Canada as we begin the 2020 Olympic cycle and begin planning for the 2024 Olympic Cycle.
Make sure to continually check back at Sting Sports Canada for up to date results from the Canadian National Team competitions, as well as athlete profiles on all the Sting Sponsored Boxers as we lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Follow us on Facebook: Sting Sports Canada and on Instagram: @StingSportsCan
About the Author
Kaitlyn Clark is a 24 year old, amateur boxer, federal government employee with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, avid juggler, and professional wrestling geek. She has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance and a Minor in French Linguistics from Carleton University; but her real passion is analyzing and writing about Olympic style boxing. You can check her and her cats out on Instagram and Twitter.
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