Bringing together a nice cross-section of Northern Ontario boxing talent, a six-bout card at the Top Glove Boxing Academy provided plenty of entertainment for a packed house, with the ladies capping off the evening in style.
The event featured an even mix of official bouts and exhibition fights, with some athletes fighting out of their weight class to accommodate a relatively small number of opponents in the north.
Nicholas Hechler (Top Glove Boxing Academy) and Lance Chretien (Valley East Boxing Club) teamed up in a three-round exhibition set to open the evening, before Cody Huff of Valley East made the most of his second appearance in the ring.
The 22-year-old native of French River picked up a unanimous 3-0 decision over Brett Sekki from the Timmins Boxing Club, showing plenty of improvement since his first stab at boxing back in November.
"I felt better technique-wise, throwing my punches," said Huff. "I was happy with my combinations. I think I did a good job with my punches — I didn't throw wild. What I lacked was my cardio.
"Nobody realizes how tiring it is. You think fighting is fighting, that I'm just going to go in there and beat the heck out of him for three rounds. That's definitely not the case."
The pre-intermission schedule wrapped up as Roxanne Charbonneau (Top Glove) also garnered a unanimous decision victory, 3-0 over Sault Ste. Marie boxer Candace Warren.
An exhibition bout to start the second half proved to be a spirited affair, with Niel Pirie (Timmins) controlling the ring out of the gate, and André Robitaille (Top Glove) getting gradually more comfortable as the fight wore on.
Pirie connected twice clean with his right hook early, with Robitaille adjusting nicely in Round 2, moving more frequently off his punches. Holding a slight height advantage, Pirie likely had the better of the bout, though both young scrappers had their moments.
With plenty of support in the hall, Sudbury native Brandon Vocaturo stepped into the ring with Kyle Sauvé of Timmins, as things continued to heat up. Somewhat contrasting styles made for an interesting matchup, as Sauvé threw wildly with his right early and often.
More patient, Vocaturo worked the body, using the jab more effectively in the second round. Sauvé held the fort, however, and came on strong in the final minute or so, taking the momentum to the third and final round.
Picking up the wild right hand of Sauvé, Vocaturo ducked under it nicely and countered effectively early in Round 3, much to the delight of the crowd. In the end, however, it was Sauvé earning the win in a split decision, one that seemed fair and appropriate.
The evening came to a fun-filled end as Emilie Charette, well known for her mixed martial arts and wrestling proficiency with both Team Shredder and as a member of the Sacré-Coeur Griffons school wrestling team, stepped in to help out local boxer Jessica Brugess.
With the scheduled opponent unable to attend, Charette made her debut in a boxing ring, trading roughly a gazillion punches with Brugess over the course of the six-minute bout. Given that the two spar together locally with regularity, the fight provided some interesting moments.
"It's definitely different," acknowledged Charette after the fight. "Just adjusting so that I wouldn't kick my opponent is probably the toughest part. It's really fun though."
In fact, the talented teenager got a reaction from those in attendance, attempting her "Superman punch", a move that is quite common in MMA, but not so much in boxing.
For Brugess, the exhibition was a chance to continue her development, coming off a silver-medal performance at provincials last weekend.
"My main goal tonight was to go in and have fun and stay relaxed, which is really training in and of itself," noted the 33-year-old one-time national biathlon champion.
"Emilie will switch her lead hand back and forth," Brugess noted with a smile. "I have to be constantly aware of whether she's boxing southpaw or orthodox."
After first picking up the sport as a means to greater fitness, Brugess jumped in more earnestly some 18 months ago.
"The second time around, it's because I had some pretty serious athletic goals," admitted the kinesiology major, who shelved her athletic dreams and goals, during her 20s, in favour of a career.
"Helping other people reach their goals was great, but I knew I had my own athletic goals."
With 10 fights now under her belt, Brugess is targeting the Golden Glove competition in Cornwall later this year, hoping to crack the national team roster in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and ultimately, the Olympics.
"Every boxer has their own style," she said. "I know that I try and fight with a lot of heart and intensity, and I suppose that can translate into a lot of punches being thrown."
Top Glove Boxing Academy head coach and organizer Gord Apolloni is looking to July 5 as the next date in which local boxers will get a chance to strut their stuff at the Regent Street facility (old Mine Mill or Navy League Hall).
For an admission price of just $15, there are few better deals out there for an evening of entertainment.