KITCHENER — Scarlett Delgado has been boxing in Mandy Bujold’s shadow for six years.
Now, it’s her time to shine in the ring.
The 26-year-old Brampton native, who originally came to Kitchener to help Bujold prepare for two Olympic Games as her main sparring partner, is finally getting her shot to fulfil her dreams of following in the footsteps of her hero.
It’s all possible thanks to a whirlwind month that saw the slugger named to Canada’s national boxing team, win a gold medal at her first international tournament, qualify for next month’s women’s world boxing championships and see her 54-kilogram weight class officially added to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
“It’s really hard to explain how I feel because it’s so indescribable,” said Delgado, who trains at the SydFIT Health Centre in Kitchener. “I never thought I would get to this level and that it was possible.”
Delgado grew up in a fighting family.
Her Ecuadorian dad, Rafael, a former pugilist who continues to train boxers in the Greater Toronto Area, and mom, Robyn, met at a gym.
“Since I was a baby I was always running around a gym and it was always a part of my life,” said Delgado. “But boxing is not something (her dad) or I ever thought I would do.”
That changed when her grandfather, Bill, passed away. Delgado, then 12, had a difficult time coping and her grandmother, Candus, suggested she spend more time hanging out with her father at work.
Delgado learned how to hit a speed bag and soaked up any and all tips. By the time she was 18, she was ready to give boxing a serious shot.
“I really wanted to show that I could handle a combat sport and that’s exactly what I did,” she said. “I fell in love with it and I haven’t looked back.”
She won one Ontario championship but never captured a national crown. Undeterred, she sought out Bujold in a bid to climb the Canadian boxing ranks.
That journey brought Delgado to Kitchener.
“I wanted to train with her because she was the most elite female boxer in the country,” said Delgado. “Wherever she was, I was going to go. She was the pedestal in my eyes.”
She drove to Kitchener several times a week to spar with Bujold, who has since retired, in the lead-up to the 2016 and 2020 Summer Games in Brazil and Tokyo.
Along the way, Delgado studied the Olympian’s style, analyzed her approach and, eventually, enlisted the help of her coach Syd Vanderpool, who still trains her today.
“In the ring Mandy is very calm and composed,” said Delgado. “I started watching her drills and I thought ‘I can do that.’ It’s about focus. She has a very specific mindset. I always aspired to be like that.”
Switching coaches from her dad to Vanderpool wasn’t an easy decision. The split has added a strain to the father-daughter relationship but Delgado felt she needed to make a change to grow as an athlete.
“The second I walked into the gym and worked with him (Vanderpool) I saw how he really cares about the performances of his athletes,” she said. “It was a very different experience than I’ve had and I knew it’s where I belonged.”
Vanderpool, a retired professional boxer, helped tweak her game and, most importantly, taught her how to have fun in the ring again.
“She was very explosive, but tense,” he said. “The first thing I said was that boxing was fun and we just need to smile. Then she started to be more loose and fluid in the ring.”
Delgado, who works three jobs, drives to Kitchener three times a week from her home in Milton to train. It makes for a hectic schedule but the results have been encouraging.
Last month, she competed at the Continental Americas in Ecuador in her first international tournament and was one of only two Canadian boxers to win a gold medal. The other was Olympian Tammara Thibeault.
Delgado won all three of her bouts and clinched a berth in the women’s world boxing championships running next month in Turkey.
“It’s huge for her,” said Vanderpool. “I always knew she was ready for the world stage.”
So did Delgado.
She grew up believing Olympians were superhuman and even wears a gold Olympic ring, gifted to her from an ex-boyfriend.
“He told me any time I have challenges or doubts to look at the ring and remind myself that there is a singular goal,” said Delgado, who plans to take aim at the 2024 Summer Games. “I know I’m not an Olympian right now but it has kept me strong and given me faith that I can be at that level one day.
“I really want to show Boxing Canada that I’m going to be the next face for them and that I’m going to make Canada proud. That has been my goal since I was a little kid and now I realize it’s at my finger tips.”
Original article available [here].