Five athletes from Ontario were chosen to represent Canada at the Americas Olympic Qualification event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mandy Bujold, Jaquan Carty, John-Michael Bianco, Justin Parina, and Sunny Thind were nominated to Boxing Canada’s Olympic Qualification Team following their results at the 2019 Canadian Trial and an extensive selection process.
Though the qualification event was recently cancelled due to COVID-19, the team is awaiting the announcement on the new selection process. Until then, the athletes will continue training to be ready for when the time comes to showcase their skills to the world. It’s important to celebrate the talent and dedication of these athletes representing our province, country, and sport!
Boxing Ontario caught up with the athletes to learn more about them and their journeys as boxers. We’ll be introducing a new fighter each Friday, so stay tuned!
Jaquan first started boxing as a way to better himself both mentally and physically. “I was told that the hardships in boxing are similar to the hardships that you will have to go through every day in life.” Though he didn’t know right away that he wanted to reach the top as a competitor, the combination of his competitiveness and the realization of his talent pushed him to strive to be among the best in the sport.
“My biggest challenge as a competitive boxer was forcing myself to remain calm and collected against various fighters and their styles, allowing myself to execute my style effectively on all others.” The resiliency and determination gained through training and competing has paid off.
“When I found out I was selected to represent Canada for the qualifiers in Argentina I was thrilled to finally be able to put my skills to the test on a nationwide scale. I was also relieved that all my hard work and efforts were getting noticed.”
John-Michael first started boxing and training in 2011 when he was 17-years-old, but even before his first day in the ring he knew he had the drive to compete. Though, at the time, he never visualized just how far he would go, he says, “I just wanted to box because I loved the sport.”
His drive to compete and his work ethic have got him through the challenges of competition. “My biggest challenge as a competitive boxer has been transitioning and adapting to uncomfortable situations: travelling and competing while being jetlagged; fight changes last minute; not having your coaches being able to travel alongside you to multiple countries; and financial stress.”
JM was on the road when he got the call from Boxing Canada regarding his nomination to the Qualification Team. “I was a bit nervous at the time because I didn’t know what to expect. But once I was told that I was selected, I was most excited to just get into the gym and to continue to get back to work.”
Mandy Bujold has established herself as a household name provincially, nationally, and internationally with an Olympic Games already under her belt. The Olympic veteran actually started boxing for fitness. “My brother boxed for a little bit before I did, and I thought it looked fun. I boxed for about a year before I started competing. I didn’t think I was ever going to step into the ring one day let alone for the Olympic Games. I took it one step at a time, and as I started competing, I realized that I was good at it and then began to set bigger goals.”
As a competitive boxer, one of the biggest challenges that Mandy has had to face is funding – “Figuring out how you’re going to pursue your dream with limited funding resources has made me very creative, and I now feel like I can add professional fundraiser to my resume.”
When Mandy found out that she was nominated to the team for the Continental Qualifier, she said, “It was very exciting. I’ve worked hard to get to this spot in my career and feel privileged to be able to join the team in Argentina to qualify for my second Olympic Games.”
After the setback of the first postponement of the Qualifiers in March 2020, Mandy commented, “Disappointed was the first emotion. I had worked very hard for this qualifier and was really looking forward to it. That being said, I knew that it was the right decision as things started to escalate quickly after this announcement.”
Mandy stayed motivated by continuing to work towards her goals, and she recommended the same for her teammates too. “Right now, I would say focusing on the present is key. Make a plan for the day/week. There is a lot that can be done from home so that we come out on the other side stronger and more prepared for what’s to come.”
“…I’ve had lots of obstacles throughout my career and they always make me stronger and more determined.”
When the heartbreaking announcement was made in April 2021 that the Qualifiers were cancelled, Mandy released a statement that read in part:
“At the end of the day, I will fight as long as there is an Olympics to fight for. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and of the amazing team we’ve created in the process.”
“My goal of representing Canada at my second Olympic Games is now in the hands of the IOC. My hope is that they will look at my results throughout my career and make a fair decision despite my time away to have a child.”
Justin was first introduced to boxing when he was seven years old by his eldest brother who also competed in the amateur rankings. After trying a variety of different sports, Justin picked up boxing again at the age of 15, this time with increased passion and motivation, “Knowing I can put my family into a better financial position all while chasing greatness. In that young age, I set my eyes on being the best in my craft and becoming the national champion…”
For Justin, managing responsibilities both inside the ring and out is of the utmost importance. “My biggest challenge as a boxer is balancing my training and academics, all while working to financially support my international competitions.”
“My initial reaction of realizing I will be travelling to Argentina was being grateful and thanking God for giving me an opportunity to represent Canada for the Olympic Qualifiers to secure a spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
When the news broke that the Qualifiers would have to be cancelled due to COVID, Justin released a statement on social media that read:
“Heartbreakingly, the American Olympic Qualifier scheduled to take place in May has been cancelled due to the conditions and restrictions of Covid-19 in Argentina. Ultimately, I am not able to compete and secure my spot in Tokyo Olympic Games.”
“At this moment, the spots will be decided based on rankings and registration policies discussed by the International Olympic Committee. Handful of boxers in the Americas, my teammates and my Olympic dreams are not in our control. Nevertheless, I am in God’s hands!”
At the end of 2020, Justin made the big move to Montreal to train full time out of the High Performance Training Centre with the National Team, and we wish him all the best! Armed with his talent, hard work ethic, drive, and faith, we know he will go far!
Sunny began boxing at the age of 15 when he found a pair of boxing gloves in his uncle’s garage. He and his brother decided to put them on and to fight amicably. “I loved boxing right away. I started watching videos of boxers such as Ali, Tyson, and Mayweather to get inspired.”
Later, he decided to join King of the Ring Boxing Club where he continued to develop his skills and his love for the sport with his coach Ajaz Khan. “I loved how boxing is a physical sport that requires strong mental preparation in order to be a great fighter.” His hard work and talent have propelled him to medal at provincial, national, and international tournaments.
When Sunny found out he was nominated to the team to represent Canada at the Continental Qualifiers, he commented, “I was really excited to find out I would be going to Argentina to represent my country. This has always been a goal for my coach and I to make it to the Olympic Games. I have been training twice every day working my hardest. I want to bring back a medal for Canada and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.”
At only 20 years old, we can’t wait to see where Sunny’s strong work ethic, drive, and raw talent take him!
[Photo Credit: Virgil Barrow]