Better training gives Canadian boxers a fighting chance at London Olympic Games

After years of taking a beating Canada's boxing team looks ready to fight back at the London Olympics.

When welterweight Custio Clayton won a 12-8 decision over Mexico's Oscar Molina Sunday night it was the first time in eight years a Canadian boxer had won an Olympic Games bout.

"I think I did amazing,'' the 24-year-old from Dartmouth, N.S., told reporters in London. "All the hard work has paid off.''

The win avenged Clayton's loss to Molina at the 2010 Pan-American championships.

"I had a tough draw, I thought, but I've fought him before,'' said Clayton. "It was all a learning experience. I sat down and saw what I did, and then what I should do."

Clayton will face Cameron Hammond of Australia in his second-round bout Friday.

The last time Canada won a bout at the Olympics was 2004 in Athens.

Canadian fighters have won eight medals at the Olympics. The last came in 1996 at Atlanta when David Defiagbon won silver. The last Canadian to win gold was Lennox Lewis in 1988 at the Seoul.

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Four years ago Adam Trupish was the lone Canadian boxer to fight in Beijing. He was eliminated in his first bout.

Canada has sent a three-member team to London with three-time world champion Mary Spencer of Windsor, Ont., the best medal hope. Simon Kean of Trois-Rivieres, Que., will fight in the super heavyweight class.

Daniel Trepanier, Boxing Canada's high-performance director, has gone to great lengths to prepare his team for London.

Leading up to the Games the Canadians spent three weeks training in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at Queen's University. Among the four countries Canada trained with was Cuba, a traditional power in international boxing. Also training where boxers from Argentina, Ecuador and Australia.

"It went very well," Trepanier told Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun. "We trained twice a day and sparred twice a week. We had our own floor, with individual rooms, with a dining room only for us.''

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Once in London Trepanier had his fighters skip the Olympic facility and instead train at Rooney's Gym, a gritty facility about 20 minutes from the athletes' village.

One of the reasons for the move was to keep Spencer out of the media spotlight.

Spencer almost missed the Games when she lost her opening bout against Sweden's Anna Rosalie Laurell at the women's world boxing championships in China. Two automatic Olympic spots were available to be won by boxers from the Americas at the championships.

The 27-year-old from Wiarton, Ont., finally had her ticket to London punched when the International Olympic Committee's Tripartite Commission decided to give her the lone wild card berth in the 75-kilogram class.

"I think the way she qualified for London, she's not the favourite anymore, and that took a lot of pressure off her," Trepanier said. "She's not the champion anymore. But she wants to be the champion again and that gives her a little bit of motivation."

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Trepanier also few Spencer's personal coach Charlie Stewart to the Belfast camp.

"It's a comfort zone for her," Trepanier said. "For 10 years she has been with Charlie and he helped her get to three world championships.''

Spencer has received a favourable draw at the Olympics. She doesn't fight until the second round next Monday when she will face the winner of a first-round middleweight bout between Roseli Feitosa of Brazil and Jin Zi Lin of China, a former world champion. A win would be a trip to the medal round.

Clayton began boxing as a tiny nine-year-old. He is still coached there by Gary Johnson, father and coach of 1992 Canadian Olympian Kirk Johnson. The '92 Olympian has acted as a mentor for Clayton.

Clayton, a three-time national champion, has two young children and is hoping to turn professional after the Olympics.

Kean will fight on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 243-pound power puncher has drawn French boxer Tony Yoka in his first bout. That is considered a winnable fight for the 23-year-old.

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