By Kaitlyn Clark
Every boxer experiences a certain degree of fear before stepping into the ring, but as Mike Tyson said “Fear is just like fire; it can be helpful if you know how to use it. If not, you’ll get burned.” Part of what makes a champion is the ability to turn that small amount of pre-fight fear and anxiety into focus and productive output in the ring.
This past week at the 2018 Super Channel Championships, it’s safe to assume that both Wyatt Sanford and Sara Haghighat-joo had at least an ounce of fear heading into the competition as all eyes were on them in their pursuit to retain their National Team spots. While it is common place for athletes to allow fear and pressure to inhibit performance, Sanford and Haghighat-joo both have the ability to control their emotions and direct their energy towards unrelenting focus for the 11 minutes in the ring; a characteristic which makes these two boxers seemingly unstoppable.
Sanford started off the tournament squaring off against Adrian Halford of Ontario, in what was sure to be a barn-burner; the two young boxers did not disappoint. Halford came out strong from the get-go, but it wasn’t long before Sanford’s awkward southpaw style took control and allowed him to separate from his opponent. Throughout the bout, Halford tried his best to catch Sanford and slow down his swift movement but was unsuccessful as Sanford moved left and right in unpredictable timing in order to avoid Halford’s punches and land shots of his own. At the end of the contest Sanford came out on top, and kept the streak alive, with a unanimous decision victory.
In the semifinals, Sanford was scheduled to go toe-to-toe with Quebec’s Junior Petanqui but Petanqui was forced to withdraw due to injury, leaving Wyatt free to move forward to the finals and defend his National Team spot against Hassan Omar (Quebec).
The Championship bout began with Wyatt using his unorthodox movement to disrupt any momentum Hassan Omar could build, keeping him on his toes and using quick shots to gain the upper hand. The momentum Sanford created in the opening round continued through the second and third rounds, proving that his increased condition due to training in the Centralized system in Montreal has paid off. At the end of the 3-round contest, by way of a 4-1 split decision, Wyatt Sanford was able to #KeeptheStreakAlive and lay claim to his first Elite Canadian Title when he won the 2018 Super Channel Championships.
While Sanford was scheduled to fight 3 times during the week, Sara Haghighat-joo had a completely different path to glory. For the first time in her career, Haghighat-joo found herself competing only one time in order to retain her National Team position; this year, however, it was at the lower weight of 51kg in order to inch herself closer to achieving her 2020 Olympic goal. With only 2 other opponents registered in the class, Haghighat-joo found herself in an unknown position – receiving the semi-final bye and being placed straight in the final bout against a well-known adversary, Justine Honsinger of Ontario.
Having just defeated Honsinger in a close match 3 months prior at the 2018 Ontario Golden Gloves, you can imagine the pressure was on for Haghighat-joo to repeat. As soon as the first bell rang, it was apparent that Haghighat-joo was laser focused on giving the best performance of her career; all bets were off and any fear or pressure she was feeling flew out of her veins when she threw that first punch. Haghighat-joo used her vast ring experience to nullify Honsinger’s powerful punches via quick 3 and 4 punch combinations tied together with seamless ring movement, cutting tight angles and ending with the jab. The third round saw Honsinger up the ante by increasing her punch count, but Haghighat-joo let her hands go as well and channeled all of her energy into flawless execution. At the end of three rounds, Haghighat-joo’s hand was raised in a unanimous decision victory and she claimed her second Canadian Title (in a second weight division); proving that she is definitely the one to beat in Canadian amateur boxing.
STING Sports Canada is very proud of our Brand Ambassadors Wyatt Sanford and Sara Haghighat-joo and we look forward to watching them both shine on the international stage in the coming year.
Stay tuned as more news on these two stars is coming soon!
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