Canada’s Bujold makes history
Kitchener fighter first woman to win back-to-back Pan Ams
A flash of hands in a mid-ring exchange, and Marlen Esparza punctuated it with a left hook to the chin that twisted Canadian Mandy Bujold’s head sideways.
Seconds later, another blur of gloved fists, and Bujold connects with a right cross to the temple that knocked Esparza’s headgear cockeyed.
For four rounds they continued like that. Bujold, a 2011 Pan Am Games champ and Esparza, the American star and 2014 world champ in the 51-kilogram division.
Fans cheered, judges deliberated and, upon issuing a thin-margined split decision, they crowned Bujold Pan Am Games champ.
The 28-year-old from Kitchener is one of just two fighters in this tournament to repeat as Pan Am champs and becomes the first woman to win two gold at back-to-back games.
“Making history again, it’s exciting,” said Bujold, who turned 28 Saturday. “To do it against a world champion and world-class fighter, and world class fighters all the way through, boosts my confidence.”
Esparza, of course, disagrees with the decision.
After leaving the ring she stormed through the interview area and took a few minutes to cool off before speaking to media. And she still spit fire. “It was bulls--t,” said Esparza, a silver medallist in the 2012 Olympics. “There was nothing strategic. She’s not a good fighter, so I don’t know why they would give her (the decision.) I beat her five times, and I beat her the same way every time. Just because I’m in Canada . . . it was the whole reason I lost.”
She had a point. Esparza appeared to carry the first round, landing several overhand rights and finishing flurries with left hooks.
And in the final half minute of the fourth, Esparza landed several more telling blows. A right hand crashed into Bujold’s face, as did two more left hooks.
Even Bujold conceded afterward that contesting the bout in Canada worked in her favour. When Bujold would get the better of mid-match grappling fans would cheer loudly, even though judges don’t score it. But Bujold also pointed out she had also dropped a close decision to Esparza when they fought in the U.S.
Either way, gold medals by Bujold, Caroline Veyre and Toronto’s Arthur Biyarslanov cap a hugely successful tournament for Canada’s team.
As expected, Cuba led all nations in total medals (10) and gold medals (6), Canada placed second in both categories, collecting three golds among its six medals. The haul outdistances a traditional power in the U.S., which counts two golds among its five medals, and emerging power Venezuela, which six medals including one gold.
The tournament also gives Canada momentum heading into Olympic qualifying, which begins later this year.
And Bujold feels the boost more acutely. She trains alongside Biyarslanov and head coach Adrian Teodorescu at the Atlas Boxing Club in North York, and is eager to atone for 2012, when she barely missed qualifying for the London Olympics.
“Before boxing was something that I did,” she said. “Now boxing is who I am.”
“Before, boxing was something that I did. Now boxing is who I am.” CANADA’S MANDY BUJOLD