It’s hard to believe, but after only one round of competition, Canada’s 2012 Olympic boxing team was already 200% better than their 2008 predecessor. Custio Clayton and Simon Kean, Canada’s only two male boxing competitors, both managed to pull off victories in their respective opening matches. It’s a marked improvement on the Beijing edition of the team, which consisted of a single boxer, Adam Trupish, who was dismantled in his opening Olympic bout. It may not be a lofty achievement, as both men will surely be looking to go far deeper into the tournament, but progress is a slow process, and the wins do bode well for Canada’s growth on the international boxing scene.
Canada has, for the most part, struggled to break through as a force on the summer stage. Our geography and culture dictate that we’re simply a more winter-friendly nation. Boxing is an accurate reflection of that, as Canada has only medalled in boxing eight times since it was first introduced as an Olympic sport in 1904. The two-for-two start in 2012 doesn’t necessarily mean that Canada is on their way to world domination, but the heart exhibited by both Canucks should serve as inspiration for aspiring young boxers nationwide. It’s proof that hard work and determination can and will pay off.
Super heavyweight Simon Kean put on a show of sheer grit against France’s Tony Yoka that could have come straight out of a Hollywood script. He was down on points after the first round, but poured it on heavily in the second and third. When the final bell had rung, the two warriors were tied at 16 points apiece. Judges were forced to take the fight to the number of punches landed to render a decision, and ultimately it was Kean who had his hand raised. It was a performance reflective of his indomitable spirit; the same type of gumption that helped him to overcome an ATV accident in 2009 that left him nearly crippled, and almost cost him a leg to amputation. He was never supposed to be able to walk again, yet here he is fighting at the Olympics, and gutting out a tough victory. If that doesn’t inspire the next generation of young Olympians, nothing will.
Clayton, on the other hand, was showing what he’s made of in a whole different way. This is a guy who has seemingly made all the right choices in life, from his training, to his academics, to his family life. He’s a walking representation of what can be achieved by doing things “the right way.” His 12-8 win over Mexico’s Oscar Molina wasn’t only his first Olympic win, but also revenge for a loss he suffered at the hands of Molina in the 2011 Pan-American Championships. Clayton was rewarded again earlier today with another tough win over Australia’s Cameron Hammond, putting him within one win of the medal round. Regardless of how the Games go for him, Clayton plans on going pro in the near future, once again providing a real life example to up-and-comers of what can be achieved through dedication.
If the good times keep rolling for Canada, we could be celebrating this nation’s first boxing gold since the legendary Lennox Lewis brought it home back in 1988. It’s a tall order, but this year’s men have shown that they aren’t fazed by adversity. They’ve shown that they don’t put stock in a ranking system that has them both outside the top 40 in their respective weight classes. They’ve shown that they aren’t happy just to be there, they want to win. That’s the type of fighting spirit that is all too often lacking from Canadian summer athletics, and it’s an attitude that the next generation of competitors can point to as a benchmark for what’s possible if you simply believe in yourself.