Ready for the ring: New Brunswick fields 1st female boxing team at Canada Winter Games

Tessa Scott and Lily Brown will represent New Brunswick in the boxing ring at the Canada Games.  (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC - image credit)
Tessa Scott and Lily Brown will represent New Brunswick in the boxing ring at the Canada Games. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC - image credit)

In the coming week, Tessa Scott and Lily Brown will do something no female boxer has done before: step into the ring at the Canada Games.

Scott, who is from Saint John and Brown, from Boundary Creek near Moncton, will take part in the 2023 Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island, which are the first to include women's boxing.

When Brown found out she was going to the Games, she said it was nerve-wracking. Having never competed at such a high level, she questioned whether she was good enough.

"But now I know that all the girls who are going are in the same position," she said. "So I think we're all pretty excited because it's the first time girls are allowed to compete."

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

Brown sees it as a step forward that stretches beyond the ropes around the ring.

"This is great for all women in all sports, and especially women in boxing, because it's going to let a lot of young girls make a lot of new opportunities they would have never had before," she said.

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Scott shares in Brown's occasional self doubt, but she's excited about the prospect of making history.

"It would feel very, very special to be known as the first female to win the Canada Games in boxing," she said.

Her coach thinks she has the juice to do it.

"I would put money on Tessa winning if we were allowed to bet," said Team New Brunswick coach Joe Blanchard. "But we don't do that."

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

Both athletes share a local role model in Charlie Cavanagh, a boxer from Saint John who placed second at the 2022 IBA world boxing championships.

Cavanagh said she's happy to fill that role, because there wasn't anyone local for her to look up to when she was starting her career. And she has a special message for Scott and Brown.

"I'm proud of you, and everyone else in New Brunswick is proud of you. And you're gonna kill it. I'm just so excited for this. This is, it's making history, it really is," she said.

Working up to the Games

Scott comes to boxing with a hidden advantage.

"I am a dancer. And I was a dancer before boxing. So I never thought that it'd be something I was interested in," she said.

Her mother, Andrea Scott, said her daughter combines her boxing with ballet training. "The dichotomy there. It's almost funny," she said.

Blanchard said her quick feet will come in handy. "Tessa's ability to use elusiveness is key," he said.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

Over six years, Blanchard said Scott has evolved from a shy fighter to a powerful force.

"Each time she's grown, she has left the old Tessa in the past. It's always a new version of herself and the new version is always better and stronger," he said.

For Brown, the sport was in her blood. Her mother, who is a boxer and helps coach at their gym, got her into it when she was nine years old.

She thought it would be a good idea to teach her kids how to protect themselves.

"I've loved it ever since, it's just always been a passion of mine," Brown said.

Like Scott, Brown thinks her footwork will give her an advantage.

"Being able to move and try and stay relaxed is one of the things that are probably going to help me the most during the Games and will help me win a few of the matches," Brown said.

To prepare for the Canada Games, her training schedule went from two days a week to four or six days.

Aniekan Etuhube/CBC
Aniekan Etuhube/CBC

But she also had to make changes outside the gym in order to gain 12 pounds before her bouts.

"That was probably the most difficult part of my new training," she said.

After months of preparation, she feels ready.

"I have been at the correct weight for probably a few months now. I believe my cardio and my footwork has been very good compared to my last fight. And I just believe I've improved a lot," Brown said.

With the power of her community behind her, Scott feels ready too.

When asked what makes her a champion she said, "Well, you know, I come from Saint John, New Brunswick. And I come from Saint John Golden Gloves."