Lennox Lewis throws support behind Mandy Bujold, local boxing

Olympic gold medal boxer Lennox Lewis made sure he was available to watch Mandy Bujold win one of her last local fights before Rio 2016. 

"I'm a big supporter of [Bujold]," Lewis told CBC Sports at the event in Toronto's Masonic Temple. He expects her to do well in Brazil come August.

"She's got a lot of tough competition but you know, I had a lot of tough competition when I went to the Olympics," Lewis said. "It's all in the mind set. She's definitely got the great mind set for going into the ring. And into Rio."

Capitalizing on Bujold

Canada hasn't won an Olympic boxing medal since 1996 when David Defiagbo won silver in Atlanta. Lewis, born in Britain but raised in Canada, won a gold medal wearing the maple leaf in Seoul in 1988.

Lewis says it's events like "Brawl in the Hall" – aptly named as it was held in the building's Concert Hall where the likes of Bob Dylan, James Brown and Led Zepplin have performed – that have the potential to change Canada's low medal counts in boxing.

More local fights highlight home grown talent; something important in pushing the sport especially while it's got a talent like 28-year-old Bujold. 

"When I was around it was like a full team; we had 12 participants," Lewis said, referencing the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. "Now going to the Olympics representing Canada, there's like three, four people. It's ridiculous what's happening."

Enter Bujold, another Olympic talent coming out of Kitchener, Ont., which is the same place Lewis grew up. He says now is the time to capitalize on that talent to foster even more.

"I want to promote boxing in Kitchener and the Toronto areas because I feel that people would be very receptive to it because of Mandy, because of me, because of the local talent," he said of potential future plans for his promotion company Global Legacy. "There must be something in the water creating a lot of great fighters from these areas.

"So I feel it's important to put some good boxing shows so people can actually come out and enjoy it live like we are today."

Getting to fight an Olympian

The crowd definitely got an intimate experience in Toronto; the venue overflowed from downstairs up into balcony seating.

"This is the first time I've fought in Toronto or locally in a while," Bujold said. "So I had about 100 people come out from Kitchener and just my friends from here in Toronto because it was so local."

"I actually think it's very awesome for a boxing venue; it's very imitate and brings everybody closer to the ring which makes for a great atmosphere for boxing."

Bujold already qualified for Rio 2016, so the fight held an entirely different meaning for her opponent, 18-year-old Bianca Paquin.

The possibility for a high school senior to fight against one of the best boxers in the world is exactly the kind of excitement Lewis argues local tournaments create.

"She threw a lot of flurries and she slipped really well. She hit hard," Paquin said of the learning experience. "My movement came into play because when I was moving around I found I got hit a lot less and I was slipping some of her punches so it worked to my benefit.

"I got a lot to work on when I go back home. I can only improve."

Paquin agreed fighting against Bujold will likely be one of the formative experiences in her journey to Tokyo 2020.

"She's definitely an up and coming fighter," Bujold said of her young opponent.

"In four years it's going to be really interesting to see her compete." 

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