Champ rolls with tourney twists and timetables
By Jeff Hicks
DEBRECEN, HUNGARY —
Sudden start? No sweat. Mystery foe? No fears. Lumpy ring? No stumbles.
Mandy Bujold, Waterloo Region’s community champ, shrugged off all the unexpected uppercuts the Bocskai International Tournament could toss at her this week.
“You have to be able to adapt,” said Mandy as she prepared to meet Spain’s Laura Fernandez in a quarter-final bout on Wednesday afternoon (8 a.m., Eastern)
“You must be able to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and make quick decisions.”
So amidst all the anarchy of 275 boxers from 30 nations scrambling to find their tournament places in a European event flooded with entrants, Mandy summoned all the poise of an 11-time Canadian champ bent on a second straight Olympics appearance in Tokyo.
Around 1 p.m. on Monday, Mandy found out her first bout was just two hours later.
“Sometimes, it’s a good thing because you don’t really have time to over-think it,” said Mandy, who wasn’t rattled by the quick start. “I’m ready, so let’s just go and do it.”
But Mandy’s opponent, the Ukraine’s Svitlana Vasylevska, was unfamiliar. So Mandy quickly took to the internet’s boxing sites to discover something sinister in advance of the bout.
Vasylevska was a lefty.
“I found a picture of her and it looked like she was in a southpaw stance,” said Mandy, who won the bout in unanimous decision. “So I just went off that.”
As Mandy prepared for that bout, her ears picked up an announcement in a foreign language.
The previous bout, involving Fernandez, was a walkover, she decipered. The other boxer didn’t show. Instead of Fight No. 3 that day. Mandy was bumped up to the second fight.
“Oh shoot, that means I’m next,” Mandy thought.
Other boxers, including Vasylevska, looked quizzically at the Kitchener resident coached by former pro Syd Vanderpool. They hadn’t picked up on the announcement.
Mandy hurried to one of two rings set up for the men’s and women’s tournament.
“My opponent didn’t understand either. She was still warming up. She had to rush to come over to the ring. You’ve got to be ready.”
But just stepping into the hastily set up second ring — initially only one ring had been erected for the tourney — was a rocky revelation.
“As you stepped in you felt all the lumps on the floor,” she said. “It wasn’t like a nice, smooth ring. You almost had to be careful not to twist an ankle as you moved around.”
Mandy was aware of the bump canvas. She didn’t dwell on it. Nor did she ponder the thick bare ropes, without any covering, that surrounded the ring. She focused on the fight.
“I’m going to be in that same ring for the next two fights,” Mandy said. “It won’t affect me.”
Neither will the excellent accommodations and good food at her hotel.
But the food provided amateur boxers at other events can be problematic for a pugilist’s dietary needs come weigh-in time.
She’s declined hot dogs and fries at other events.
“Sometimes, it’s just really weird,” said Mandy, recalling a plate of rice topped with a mound of sour cream and a heap of cream corn.
“I would not eat that.”
But perfect food, perfectly flat rings and ideal preparation time can be scarce as easy knockouts when visiting tournament rings around the world.
“When you’re at home, you always prepare for this perfect scenario,” she said.
“Always be ready.”