Sparring with Bujold not for the ‘feint’ of heart, says fellow Canadian Olympic hopeful Justin Parina
By Jeff Hicks
The electronic punch counter should have burst into flames.
Another spirited sparring round between Mandy Bujold and Justin Parina, two Canadian Olympic qualifier champs bent on boxing in Tokyo, ticked down to the final jab-filled seconds.
Syd Vanderpool, Mandy’s coach, demanded more wallop from Waterloo Region’s preeminent practicing pugilist before the bell rang.
“Come on, Mandy,” Vanderpool roared from beyond the ropes. “Don’t settle. Don’t settle.”
Fists flew with renewed flyweight fury.
You want to know what it’s like to face Mandy in the ring? Parina will tell you. It’s overwhelming.
“She has everything,” said an exhausted Parina after a Saturday sparring session at SydFit Health Centre with the continental Olympic qualifiers only a few weeks away in Buenos Aires.
“She’s got speed, power and smarts. That’s what you need. You can have brute force. But if you’ve only got brute force, you’re going to talk funny at the end of the day.”
So the smarts are as important as a jack-hammer jab or battering-ram body blow. Take it from the 20-year-old kid who just went toe-to-toe with the 32-year mom from Kitchener.
“It’s all about being smart, and sharp, to win fights,” said the Manila-born Parina, who grew up in Mississauga and was introduced to boxing at age seven by his older brother.
Mandy, he says, packs a punch powerful enough to shock many male boxers. But beware — she is as deceptive as she is quick.
“Feints,” Parina warned of the Bujold bag of tricks.
“She’ll fake me out that she’s going to go in. Then she doesn’t. I commit to something. Just a little mistake by me. That’s why she’s a seasoned vet. That’s why she’s No. 1.”
That’s also why the two are fast friends and perfect sparring partners.
They learn from each other. Parina, normally an orthodox fighter, switched to a left-handed stance to help Mandy prepare for likely matchups against southpaw opponents in Argentina.
His power and finesse gives Mandy the training push she needs before the two head to Montreal. Once there, national team members will prepare further for Argentina, where Olympic spots in Japan will be up for grabs.
Mandy wants to get to her second Games. Parina aims for his first.
“He’s slick.” Mandy said of Parina, lefty or righty. “He’s got a really high ring IQ in being able to see punches and react quickly.”
Mandy keeps Parina honest while sparring so he won’t get sloppy in competition. They battled for middle-of-the-ring dominance, again and again.
“I won’t let him get away with throwing just one shot,” Mandy said after their sparring. “If he throws one shot at me, I’m going to come right back. That’s where I’m able to push him to a different level and make him uncomfortable. That’s what guys are going to do in Argentina.”
Parina figures it might take a medal in Buenos Aires to earn a trip to Japan.
Is he nervous? Of course, he is.
“If you’re not nervous, then you’re not human,” he said. “But when the bell rings, you’ve got to show them how much of a champion you are. You’ve got to prove yourself.”
Mandy and Justin make an ideal sparring duo. That’s already proven.
“I’ve got the experience but he’s got the strength,” said Mandy, huffing and puffing, after the last bell. “We both bring something to the table.”