For a boxer who had already exceeded expectations in his first Olympic Games, you would think Custio Clayton would have been happier to have made it as far as he did. However, with a questionable result from the judge’s scorecard against Great Britain’s Freddie Evans preventing Clayton from reaching the tournament semi-finals, he’s understandably frustrated. It was a bitter finishing note to a dismal Olympics for a Canadian Boxing team that had arrived in London with much higher hopes than they were able to achieve.
Super heavyweight Simon Kean and women’s medal favorite Mary Spencer were both eliminated convincingly on Monday, leaving Clayton as the last remaining hope for the Canadian boxing squad. Building off of a winless showing in the 2008 Games, it’s hard to call Clayton’s run a failure for Team Canada, but with all boxing semi-finalists guaranteed at least a bronze medal, it’s a tough pill to swallow.
The fight was tied after three rounds, and judges were forced to go back and count every punch landed to determine the result. Clayton thought an aggressive third round was enough to score him the decision. “Everyone that saw that fight would give it to me,” said Clayton, still smiling. “I believed I had it, but it didn’t turn out that way.” His Canadian team representatives agreed, as they filed an appeal on his behalf to the International Amateur Boxing Association. That appeal was ultimately rejected. Daniel Trepanier, High Performance Director at Boxing Canada, weighed in on the subject via news release. “We are very disappointed in this decision,” said Trepanier. “Custio clearly won the fight in our opinion and this is not a good day for Olympic boxing.”
Indeed it has not been a good Olympics overall for Canadian boxing, regardless of how low the bar had been set. Clayton may elect to turn pro in the near future, meaning that the national program would have to yet again start from scratch with another young boxer. This has been a growing problem for the Canadian program over the last few Olympic Games as they try to rebuild the program. “We usually get these kids for one Olympic cycle, then we lose them,” said Trepanier. “We have four years to develop them and then they’re gone.” That’s what makes Clayton’s loss so painful for coaches like Trepanier, the window to produce results is so small. Had Clayton been able to bring home a medal before turning pro, there would at least be a positive incentive for the 2016 edition of the team.
Canada’s highest hopes had been pinned on Windsor, Ontario’s Mary Spencer, who was beaten handily in her opening match one day earlier. The program invested heavily in Spencer, and as the star of several promotional spots she had become the face of Canadian boxing at these games. Quebec’s Simon Kean also got the nation’s hopes up with a huge first round upset, before being blown out 20-6 in the following round of the tournament.
Despite the poor showing in London, those within the program maintain optimism. When asked about the direction of Boxing Canada, coach Sylvan Gagnon said “I think we’re going in a good way now.” He believes that Canada produces some good talent, but is more geographically challenged than their European counterparts. “The program is doing well and going in the right direction,” he said. “We have to get more good fights. In Europe they can drive 2-3 hours and get good fights, we have to fly 6 hours.”
Clayton, a 24-year-old father of two, has stated interest in turning pro after the Olympics, but has not yet made an official decision.