Mandy Bujold is a Canadian boxer whose career was launched following a successful 2006 when she claimed the Canadian National Championship and Boxer of the Year titles. Weighing in at 51 kg (112 lbs.), she has made her way as a Fly Weight Champion, with a trail of titles and victories following her. Included amongst her many achievements are 9 Canadian National Championships, 3 Continental Championships, a Gold medal at the first Pan-American Games and a Bronze medal at the first Commonwealth Games that included women?s boxing. Most recently during the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games Mandy successfully defended her title and became the only female boxer in history to win 2 Pan American Games titles. Mandy’s dedication and discipline have made her a great competitor and ambassador for the sport.
Mandy is now focusing on her training for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Mandy will compete in several international events including the World Championships on her journey towards her ultimate goal of fighting for GOLD at the Olympic Games in 2016.
The FCN caught up with Mandy just before she won Gold at the Pan Am Games in 2015 and asked her how training was going and her thoughts on coaching in the future…
What inspired you to start boxing as a young girl?
I have two older brothers and my parents came home one day with sets of boxing gloves and a punching bag; they decided that they were going to put this up in the basement in the hope that we would stop fighting each other and start hitting the bag instead! So that’s where the interest sparked for me. A little later I moved and went to high school in Kitchener which has a big boxing history and there is a really famous boxing gym called the Waterloo Boxing academy. Lennox Lewis started his career there and my brother joined the gym. Not too long after I followed in his footsteps. It was more just for fun, to get active and to get in shape. The interest sparked from there and I never looked back.
What challenges have you faced as a female in such a male dominated sport?
There will always be challenges. At the very beginning it was a little harder; I remember going in to the gym and certain coaches where still not accepting of it, either that or they just were not used to coaching women. I remember being in the ring once and was kicked out after being told to take my gloves off because they didn?t want me in the ring. A few years later the coaches actually came and apologised saying they weren’t used to the situation. They were so used to just having boys and they didn’t know how to handle having a female in the gym or how to deal with it. So when I started, it was a harsh situation, but now it’s a lot easier because women’s boxing is accepted almost all over the world now. With us being in the Olympics we are breaking barriers all the time and I think that’s what has helped our sport become more accepted.
What is it like working with Coach Adrian Teodorescu and have you had any challenges working with a male coach as opposed to a female coach?
I wouldn’t say there’s been any challenges; I think for me at the level that I am at I want to be treated like a boxer. I’m not a female boxer, I?m not a male boxer, I’m just a boxer. I think high level coaches respect that and they will treat you in the same way.? I don?t expect to get different treatment because I’m a girl and I respect my coach because he treats me that way. I think that’s what makes me stronger and that’s what makes me who I am as a boxer. When I’m in the gym and I’m sparring I spar with the boys just as much as I spar with the girls, so you don’t make a difference between the two. Working with a male coach has never really made me think of it as it being any different. I have had the opportunity to work with female coaches in the past and they do understand you a bit more I feel. They are great to work with, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with working with a male coach either.
Do you feel you have had to prove yourself more being a female boxer over some of the men you train with?
Yes, I think we do. You walk into a gym and although I don’t notice it anymore, if you stop and look around you realise you’re the only girl in the gym. I’m at the point now where I’ve gained the respect of everyone in the gym. I have respect from all the boxers in the gym, but you do have to work for that. When some girl’s first start in boxing, it can be a struggle and you feel like ok, I’ve got to be really good at this. The bottom line is, if you give 100%, you’re going to gain that respect from anybody because it is a tough sport. So long as you give 100% that’s all you can do.
How are your preparations going for the Pan Am Games which is being held in your home city this year?
It’s been going great actually. The last 4 weeks I’ve had 3 fights and right now we are just working on getting ready for the competitive season so we have been doing local fights. It’s been good to have a fight and come back into the gym for a week or so, work on specific things and then go back into the ring and test it out. It’s been very good for that aspect.? We have our first international competition coming up in April and then the qualifier for the Pan Am Games, so it’s exciting! You can feel the buzz happening in Toronto, everyone is getting excited about it. There’s always little events and things going on to promote the games so its definitely exciting for us! I don’t know how much other countries are feeling it or seeing it but for me when I was driving into Toronto yesterday, there is a new sign above one of the bridges saying ?The Games are coming! You see stuff like that and it gives you butterfly’s almost! It’s definitely exciting and I think it’s going to be a great games.
You won a bronze medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games last year. How was your experience and did you enjoy the beautiful British Weather?
I didn’t mind it! We were actually pretty lucky with the weather. We were there for a little bit before for the training camp and we had quite a bit of rain, but for the actual games I think we had one full week and it was hot and sunny.
What impact do you think having women?s boxing as part of the Olympic Games has had on your sport?
I think it’s helped it bring more publicity. We now have 3 Olympic champions that are out there promoting the sport Katie Taylor is an amazing ambassador for our sport and all the other girls that are out there. They can say that they are Olympians and they are raising the profile of the sport. I think it’s great in that sense. I know that since the Olympics more women are getting involved and getting involved at younger ages which is really great to see because it’s developing our sport. Now we have junior and youth world championships were as before we never really had that. So these girls get to travel the world and have these experiences at such a young age. I just think back and think if I had that opportunity when I was young where I could I have reached as an athlete. It’s just amazing that it is starting to grow at that grassroots level as well as the elite. I think more people are taking boxing more seriously and it is also easier for us to go out and get sponsorship now that we can say we are in the Olympics. That’s the goal for every sport this is what I’m training for, this is my end goal and people want to support you to get to that because it’s the Olympics.
As well as fighting, you also have some coaching roles; can you tell us about them?
I do a little bit of coaching at the Atlas Gym and I used to coach at my old gym the Waterloo Boxing Academy quite a bit. I also run a coaching program through another gym in Toronto called the Clancy’s Boxing Club. What we do there is a pretty neat program as we coach corporate people in the agency industry. It’s called Agency Wars and we take people who are in the corporate world and bring them into boxing. They do a try out and we train them for 3 months, they register for a real fight and we train them as if they are a real fighter. They have a nutrition plan, a strength coach and I become the boxing coach for one team and then there?s Mark Simmons who coaches the other team. Then we fight each other at the end at a big Gala show which actually airs on the Fight Network. It’s a pretty big production. At the beginning I thought ok, well its going to be kind of fun.These people are expected to really know how to box at the end of it. I teach them as much as I can, but I never thought how much I’d get involved. There are still a few that have continued into boxing because of this. It?s amazing because they went through this experience together as a team and I was able to be a part of it. They created friendships for life because it was something that was so tough and challenging, something different that they all went through together. It was a really cool experience to be a part of and to be able to mentor them and be their coach. It was fun for me because I was preparing for the World Championships at the same time and I remember thinking in my head ‘oh my god I’ve got to remember to tell this person to work on this’! I was so focussed on what they needed to do for their game plan that I had to remind myself to focus on me a little bit too! I got pretty involved with it, it was an amazing experience and I?m going to be doing it again this year.
What lessons from your own boxing career do you pass on to your athletes?
There are a few things I feel I’ve learned not to do! Some of the things I know I don?t like as an athlete I usually make sure not to do those things. Then there is also the positive side to it; you know what works and what’s good for motivating people. My coach right now Adrian, he is amazing, he is very detailed and very specific about small little things that most coaches don’t pay attention to. Even just like keeping your hands always closed, or in a certain position…most coaches will pay attention to things like the punches or the more obvious things, but he pays attention to the small little details. I think that’s kind what makes him such a great coach and I try to do that as well with my athletes. It can get annoying when someone keeps telling you the same things a hundred times during your workout but then it becomes something that you will naturally do. You obviously learn from different coaches and you take what works for you and what doesn’t work for you and you leave those bits behind.