FIGHT CLUB

CANA­DIAN PRIME MIN­IS­TER (AND SOME­TIME BOXER) JUSTIN TRUDEAU RE­COUNTS THE TIME HE BAT­TLED A RI­VAL IN THE RING. LIT­ER­ALLY

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

The night Cana­dian PM Justin Trudeau knocked out a ri­val.

Some­times you have to go with your gut, even when ev­ery­one around you thinks you’re wrong. My char­ity box­ing match with Se­na­tor Pa­trick Brazeau was one of those mo­ments. Not a sin­gle one of my friends or col­leagues thought it was a good idea.

The route to the ring be­gan in June 2011, when some­one told me about an Ottawa-based white-col­lar ama­teur box­ing event called Fight For The Cure. Pro­ceeds would ben­e­fit the Ottawa Re­gional Can­cer Foun­da­tion. Now there, I thought, was an op­por­tu­nity.

The con­cept be­hind the fight is to take fit ex­ec­u­tives who are more used to squash or spin­ning, train them as ama­teur box­ers for six months, and then pit them against each other in front of their neigh­bours, friends and clients, to whom they’ve sold tick­ets for char­ity.

I had been train­ing as an ama­teur boxer since my early twen­ties, and I had al­ways liked the idea of step­ping into the ring for just one real fight. The bonus was I might be able to find a hard­core Con­ser­va­tive to be my op­po­nent.

The fight al­most didn’t take place. For all the tough talk from Con­ser­va­tives, I had trou­ble find­ing a Tory will­ing to step into the ring. As I joked at the time, “Who knew I’d have such a hard time find­ing a Con­ser­va­tive who wants to punch me in the face!”

Fi­nally, Pa­trick Brazeau took up the chal­lenge. As any­one who knows Mr Brazeau can at­test, he is big and brawny and full of swag­ger. I had a few inches of height on him and a longer reach, but he was much thicker around the chest and bi­ceps. He had been trained in the Cana­dian Forces and held a sec­ond­de­gree black belt in karate. He was so phys­i­cally men­ac­ing that, when the fight was an­nounced, the ques­tion quickly be­came not, “Who will win?” but, “How many sec­onds will it take for Trudeau to land face down on the can­vas?”

The fight date was set for March 31, 2012, at Ottawa’s Hamp­ton Inn, and over the next six months, I trained hard. Re­ally hard.

There is some­thing about the pu­rity of old-school box­ing. It teaches you more than a set of tech­ni­cal skills. It teaches you how to re­main fo­cused de­spite ex­haus­tion, and to stick with a game plan even while get­ting bat­tered. Most of all, it teaches you the value of dis­ci­pline and hard work. I beat Pa­trick Brazeau in that ring be­cause I had a bet­ter team

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau may be Canada’s only fa­mous politi­cian – ever. He’s a lib­eral fem­i­nist who can ex­plain quan­tum com­put­ing to a bunch of scep­ti­cal jour­nal­ists, and a bona fide hot­tie at whom women, in­clud­ing world lead­ers (An­gela Merkel), roy­alty (Kate Mid­dle­ton) and ac­tors (Emma Wat­son), are reg­u­larly pho­tographed gaz­ing dream­ily. Dreami­est of all, per­haps, is the pub­lic per­cep­tion of him as a prin­ci­pled leader who bat­tles op­pos­ing politi­cians with gusto – to the ex­tent that he even took that fight to the box­ing ring, as he re­mem­bers here.

be­hind me, I had a bet­ter plan, and I had trained harder to make that plan a re­al­ity.

A week be­fore the fight, my trainer, Matt Whit­teker, asked about my fight plan. I told him how I thought it would go: Brazeau would throw ev­ery­thing he had at me early. I’d spend the first round keep­ing him away with my jab and reach, and let him tire him­self out. By the sec­ond round I’d have more gas than him and take the ini­tia­tive, and per­haps in the third round I’d go for the knock­out. Matt smiled at my con­fi­dence and teased, “Oh, you’ll wait till the third round to knock him out, will you?” We both knew full well that KOS rarely hap­pen in Olympic-style ama­teur box­ing, and if there was one, the smart money was on Brazeau de­liv­er­ing it.

But as it turned out, that’s pretty much what hap­pened. Brazeau came out in a frenzy from the start, and in the first half of the first round he landed a num­ber of huge over­hand rights that had me reel­ing and won­der­ing if I’d made a ter­ri­ble mis­cal­cu­la­tion. But just as I was be­gin­ning to won­der how much more I could take, he stopped land­ing those big punches.

I could hear him huff­ing and puff­ing, and sud­denly I was con­nect­ing my punches and swat­ting away his. I ended that first round with a smile on my face, as I knew it was al­ready over. He’d given me his all, and I could take it, and now I was go­ing to win. By the third round Brazeau had had enough. When I scored a third stand­ing eight-count in that fi­nal round, the ref­eree ended it. It was a TKO, or tech­ni­cal knock­out, not a true knock­out per­haps, but un­der Olympic rules it was the best I could ex­pect.

Only then did I look out and be­gin to ab­sorb ev­ery­thing around me. The hall was filled with Con­ser­va­tive MPS and min­is­ters look­ing for­ward to see­ing their guy knock a Trudeau down. They had clearly ex­pected a dif­fer­ent end­ing. As I had hoped, the event was a morale booster for fel­low Lib­er­als.

I knew full well that a box­ing match is a far cry from the real busi­ness of pol­i­tics. No con­stituen­cies were won and no poli­cies were made that night in sub­ur­ban Ottawa. But po­lit­i­cal par­ties are teams. They are groups of like-minded, com­pet­i­tive hu­man be­ings. They need vic­to­ries to build and main­tain their spir­its, es­pe­cially af­ter a string of losses.

That box­ing match was the first clear vic­tory we Lib­er­als had en­joyed over the Con­ser­va­tives in a long, long time. It felt pretty good. This is an edited ex­tract from Justin Trudeau’s mem­oir, Com­mon Ground (Oneworld, $24.99), out now.

“Who knew I’d have a hard time find­ing a Con­ser­va­tive who wants to punch me!”

FIGHT­ING FIT (from left) Justin Trudeau on the 2012 match poster; in day job mode; (op­po­site) and in box­ing mode.

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