Beginning on December 17, three Destiny Boxing competitors – Mandy Bujold, Sara Buczek, and Jynelle Bourne – battle for spots on Team Canada at the Olympic Qualifiers in Montreal, Quebec. All three train under the watchful eye of former professional boxer Syd “The Jewel” Vanderpool at his Kitchener club. “They each took different roads to get to the qualifier,” said Vanderpool. “Just getting to this point is a major accomplishment for any boxer, but we’re going to Montreal to win. If we can make it this far, we can go one step further. We can win.”
Coaching alongside Syd is professional female boxer, and WBF Female Super Light Weight Champion, Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence, who brings her 9 year professional career to the ringside corner. Spence’s dedication to working with top athletes and her deep passion for the sport give the Destiny Boxing coaching team an extra edge. “These fighter’s come into the gym everyday while balancing home and work life with their dreams of success in the ring. It’s my job to push them through the pain and towards achieving their ultimate goals.”
A two-time Pan American Games gold medalist and eleven-time national 51kg champ, Mandy Bujold is one of Canada’s most decorated amateur boxers, but currently funds her own career. In order to receive Boxing Canada funding, a fighter must engage in a process called centralization, which involves relocating for training in Montreal. After opting to remain with her young family in Kitchener, Bujold now fundraises the money necessary to remain competitive while training with Syd Vanderpool and the rest of the Destiny Boxing team.
“I knew the funding implications of staying in Kitchener. I wouldn’t change a thing,” explained Bujold. “I love my family and community. I just couldn’t do it at this point in my career. It’s been tough focusing on fundraising and training, but I’m very fortunate to have a lot of great people who are helping me reach my goals.”
So far, so good. Earlier this year, Bujold defeated Natacha Cantero in Puerto Rico, kicking off her return to the international boxing scene. That was followed by a silver medal winning performance at the Silesian Cup in Gliwice, Poland, where she defeated England’s Chloe Watson before losing a close fight in the finals to Graziele Souza of Brazil. Most recently, Bujold earned an impressive victory at home, taking a unanimous decision over Australian champ Kristy Harris.
Sara Buczek will also be representing Ontario and Destiny Boxing at the Olympic Qualifiers. Boxing in the 60kg division, Buczek is a decorated martial artist and member of Canada’s national Muay Thai squad. In 2018, she represented Canada at the Pan American Muay Thai Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina, battling her way to a silver medal. This past September, Buczek took part in the World Muay Thai Championships in Thailand, going 1-1 at the sport’s highest level. In the world of amateur boxing, she punched her ticket to the Olympic Qualifier by defeating Melissa Mirosane of Khalsa Boxing Club 4-1 at the Ontario Silver Gloves.
“You can’t teach tough,” said Buczek. “I’ve been fighting for many years and in multiple disciplines. Yes, some competitors have more boxing experience than I do, but when it comes down to it, I’ve learned things in Muay Thai and Kung Fu that will translate really well to national caliber boxing. I’m not an easy opponent for anyone.”
Jynelle Bourne is the third Destiny Boxing fighter representing Ontario at the Olympic Qualifiers. Competing in the 69kg division, Bourne came up short at the Silver Gloves against eventual champion Nikita Abbott of Black Eye Boxing in Brantford, but won a box-off in London shortly thereafter to secure Ontario’s second spot in Montreal.
“I think a few fighters will overlook me,” said Bourne. “I battled my way into the final Ontario spot at the London event. I’ve been grinding it out and staying sharp this whole time. It wasn’t easy, but I did what I had to do. I’m taking that mindset with me to Montreal. I have to prove myself again, this time at the highest level. I hope everyone brings their best possible performance, because I certainly intend to.”
If Bujold, Buczek, or Bourne win in Montreal, nothing is guaranteed. Unlike the old days when Canada simply sent a team to the Olympics, boxers now compete in the Continental Qualifier in Argentina to earn their spot against the best fighters.