|Role:||AIBA 3 Star Referee, Boxing Coach & Founder of FTEC|
|Organisation:||Kingsway Boxing Club & Fight to End Cancer|
We first interviewed Jennifer back in April 2015 and have kept in touch ever since; it has been inspiring watching her progress in the boxing World over the last 12 months. Jennifer has been travelling the World as an Amateur International Boxing Association referee working at various Rio Olympic Qualifying events and the soon to start Women’s World Championships in Kazakstan..as well as running her own boxing gym and planning for her 5th annual charity boxing event called Fight To End Cancer.
Quite how Jennifer manages to pull everything off so wonderfully is beyond us…her energy and enthusiasm is almost superhuman…it is hard not to be inspired by all that she has and is achieving.
We managed to catch up with Jennifer early one morning in-between coffee orders and coaching to ask her how preparations for Fight To End Cancer 2016 is going and how her two female fighters are preparing for their big charity bought on June 4th…
Just over a year ago, I was upgraded as an International 3-Star referee and I’ve travelled another 10 countries since then! I have also been able to learn much more about the sport just from my interaction with the officials, watching coaches and, most of all, the top level boxers I have shared the ring with from all over the world. It’s fascinating to see how different coaches from different countries operate in high-pressured situations in the lead up to the Olympic Games. I couldn’t have asked for a better year to start refereeing at the Olympic-level; the pressure is very high because every tournament this last year acts as an Olympic qualifier.
Also, it was announced a few weeks ago that I am one of the nine ambassadors for the AIBA International Boxing Association for the Women’s World Championships in Kazakhstan, along with 2 other referees and fighters such as Nicola Adams. This is a huge honour to be a part of. Up until the last couple of years, I have always been nervous to share my boxing passion with the world, but now the sport I love is being celebrated.
This is the first time in my life that being a female in sport has actually been notably positive. I was previously in the female-dominated sport of figure skating, which was so hard to get noticed in. Switching over to boxing, which is a very male-dominated sport, was a tough one and I was not always welcomed into it. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was cold, but the undertone of women in boxing had always been considered a novelty. My success came from breaking down barriers where a lot of people thought they couldn’t. I never gave up on my vision of what I wanted to accomplish within my sport and never let anyone take away my confidence in that vision. To have success at anything, you have to have perseverance and you have to be willing to take a knock, take them in your stride and use them to fuel you rather than breaking you down. I think anyone that has been successful within their own rights have had a lot more failure than they have had success. I am sure it will continue like that in some ways, but right now it seems like all the pushes I made to break the mold are all paying off and I am very lucky that they are. I think it also helps to surround yourself with really good people and really great mentors. So I think it all comes down to a complete package of the choices I have made and will continue to make.
From everything that I have gone through, my natural reaction to being chosen as an ambassador and being put on this pedestal makes me want to hide! Being chosen by an association that I respect and am being supported by is a huge honour. It is all been a helpful process of reflecting on what I have done, which I may not have done if I hadn’t been chosen as an ambassador. At first I was almost embarrassed, but I realized I have spent almost my entire career being embarrassed for the wrong reasons. I had to take a step back to realize that I am a role model and I do things that people look up to. I want to figure out a way of giving back through this amazing opportunity.
Being as busy as I am as a referee, it has actually opened my eyes up to the fact that being away from the gym and taking a step back has allowed my team (who are amazing!) to take more control. I have really noticed the gym has grown a lot. When you are really involved with other things and take a step back to see what others do, you can really see how much more is being accomplished by your team than what you could do alone.
FTEC started off extremely small, very family orientated (which it still really is), but it’s grown so large that a lot of people and a lot of companies want to jump on board now. One of the companies on board is the venue location, a place called ‘The Old Mill’ which is an historic location in Toronto and this will be the 4th year of hosting it there. We really have packed that location full each year and this year we are 110% over capacity. We sold out 4 months early. This year it just seems to be a sought after event (which is a really proud feeling). Because of that, I wanted to figure out a way of staying at the same venue and grow what we have there. I didn’t want to move to a bigger venue because there are some great people there who jumped on board in the beginning and I needed them to back us and they really did! So rather than find a new venue to fit in more people, we are doing a live broadcast so people can watch it from anywhere. Watching boxing in a bar used to happen in the Muhammad Ali days of boxing. I love the idea of re-creating that – the thought that people would want to see it so badly they would pay for a ticket at a bar and watch it. So it’s exciting to think that people would want to do that with FTEC and it’s a big step for us.
They are very interesting fighters. Sam’s father fought in the 2014 event and Natasa lost her aunt in 2013 because of cancer…so this fight means the world to me. It is also a special fight because these are two girls who have come from very different backgrounds. Sam’s background is from martial arts and Natasa was a dancer. This is what makes boxing so special. You can take two very different people and train them to make a fight which is entirely fair. Watching their growth process has been amazing. On a personal level, hearing their reasons to fight reminds you of the very stark reality of why we are all doing this.
That’s probably one of the most important components of the event. I couldn’t do FTEC without a female fight. One thing that I fight against every year is from people saying ‘oh man, are these girls going to fight, look how pretty they are?!” And that is the first reaction people have to the female boxers, every single year. It’s so important to me to create that dialogue, because not only are they raising money to fight cancer, they are such instrumental pieces to the puzzle when it comes to making people recognize that boxing is a sport for everyone. Boxing is just a metaphor for what we are all trying to do in this life and everyone is part of that! So to include women in the event is essential and every year the women’s fight is the fight of the night! They are strong, aggressive and they are so tactical and technical. As a woman, I can tell you that everything we do, we do it with our whole heart – not that the guys don’t, but it’s an expectation that the guys will fight and the girls won’t. Especially beautiful girls…and we have these gorgeous women fighting; it’s a nice thing to see them breaking the mold and getting hit in the face!
As far as we have come for female boxing, people are still confused as to how women can get in the ring and fight like a man, which is not what they are doing. They are just boxing and that it’s a sport. It’s a really cool thing to be able to promote women boxing as well as fighting to end cancer.
We are going to do a live to air broadcast which will extent our doors out to another 150 in a local bar Stratosphere Gastrolounge and Wine Bar (http://www.stratosphereresto.com) in Toronto. As well as this, because many people have family that want to watch outside of Canada or outside of Toronto, they all want to stream it on the internet and watch the fight. So you can watch the whole show from around 5pm to 10:30pm (local time) and hopefully we will keep you entertained the whole time! You will be able to purchase the link from our home page fairly soon! It will be $15 CDN to purchase which will go to the Fight To End Cancer as well.
Register to watch the event HERE