One of Winnipeg’s newest boxing gyms is making its mark at the international level.
Winnipeg Elite Boxing and MMA Academy, located at A-1042 Henderson Hwy., sent 15 athletes and four coaches to the 13th annual Ringside World Championships in Independence, Mo. from July 31 to Aug. 3. In all, the gym’s fighters took home three world title belts, while two others were runners-up and four others made the semifinals.
The three champions were gym owner Kent Brown in the men’s masters division, Patricia Girardin in the women’s novice 19-40, 112-lbs. division, and Brian Gordon in the boy’s novice 15-16, 114-lbs. division.
Girardin, a 29-year-old Grant Park resident, was attending the tournament for the second time. She had her first-ever fight down in Missouri two years ago after just six months of training. In winning her second and third bouts on this occasion, she captured her division’s belt.
"This time, I knew what I was expecting," she said. "I felt good after my first fight. I ended it pretty quick."
Girardin recalled that in the championship fight against Eva Marie Young of Mishawaka, Ind., Brown’s encouragement from the stands put her over the top.
"I laid the combos he was yelling from the bleachers, and that finished it," she said.
Girardin hopes to improve her conditioning and get more experience.
Brown, a North Kildonan resident who grew up in the North End, said taking the belt amounted to wrapping up some "unfinished business" for him. The 41-year-old had qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, but his berth was revoked after a scoring controversy.
"I didn’t get to go and represent," Brown said of the Olympics. "Getting the opportunity was a sweet victory.
"It was unfinished business I got to accomplish."
Brown hadn’t fought since 2004, but was convinced to get back in by his fellow fighters. He decided to attend Ringside approximately a year beforehand, and amped up his training when camp began approximately six weeks before the event. He plans to attend next year as well.
Gordon, meanwhile, has only trained at the gym for approximately a year after switching over from a competing gym. Gordon was vacationing in Sweden and was not available for an interview.
Coach Dejan "Pappa" Paunovic said Gordon, a La Salle product, had some minor things that needed to be tweaked when he first joined the gym. A couple of small mistakes in his hand positioning cost Gordon at last year’s Ringside tournament, but he came through this year.
"He’s an excellent fighter," said the East St. Paul resident. "He came in our gym, and we worked with him so hard.
"He trains hard, he was sparring with everybody."