In the political ring, Federal Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau knows how to take a few jabs.
In the boxing ring, it’s a different story, especially when those jabs are being thrown by Top Glove Boxing Academy’s own Amber Konikow, a four-time Ontario provincial boxing champion who has earned the title of Canadian boxing champ in both 2007 and 2008.
On the world stage, she's competed at the women's world boxing championship in Ningbo city, China in November 2008, bringing home the bronze medal.
Trudeau is no stranger to the boxing ring, though. He scored a major upset earlier this year in a third-round TKO victory over Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau in a fundraising bout for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
Konikow led Trudeau and several other boxers in a round of warm-ups before the two went toe-to-toe in three, two-minute rounds at the local gym. It was far from remarkable, but it was an experience Konikow said she won’t soon forget.
“I never thought I would be sparring with a person as well known as Justin Trudeau,” she said.
“It was a great experience, one that I can share when I do my motivational presentation with kids in this community. It’s a lesson that will show them that no matter what your level or your background, we’re all athletes, and we come to train. It’s all about good sportsmanship.”
Trudeau wasn’t available for comment following the sparring match, although he did take time to pose for photos with Top Glove boxers and visitors. Earlier in the day, he held a meet and greet at Theatre Cambrian.
The entire training session lasted less than an hour, and it was one for which Konikow said she spent time preparing. Outside the boxing ring, Trudeau may be the Liberal leadership frontrunner, but inside the ring, he’s just like any other boxer, she said.
“When you’re in the ring, and you’re coming into our club, it’s a whole different story,” she said. “I didn’t think of him as Justin Trudeau the politician – to me, he was a boxer, just like the rest of the team.”
The 38-year-old boxer said she studied some of the footage of the fight between Trudeau and Brazeau, and from that she knew he was tall and that he likes to use his jab a lot.
“I’m tall, too, so I like to use that and my reach to my advantage. I also like to use my jab a lot, so I knew it was going to be a lot of straight punches.”
With more than 50 fights under her belt, Konikow said she wasn’t intimidated by the thought of fighting Trudeau, but intimidation wasn’t anywhere on the card for either fighter anyway. They came out swinging, but the event was designed to be more of a training experience for both, not an all-out fight.
“I knew I could teach him a few tricks,” she said.
Gord Apolloni, head coach at Top Glove Boxing Academy, said it was Trudeau who got the ball rolling for the Sudbury training session.
“Justin calls ahead to any city that he goes to and asks the Liberal association there if there is a boxing club, and they, in turn, make the arrangements,” Apolloni said.
This was Amber’s first sparring match probably in six months, he said. The age limitations have changed in the boxing world. It used to be 34, but now it’s 40, “so she’ll be able to box internationally again.”
“I thought it would be a unique opportunity for her to box with Justin, and I thought Justin would find it interesting,” he said. "(Justin) said it’s the first time he’s ever sparred with a girl.
“Justin is a great guy; he has so much charisma, and I think he’s going to be a great leader of our country some day. For him to come to a local boxing club really shows his character.”