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Cape Breton’s Brayden LeBlanc earns his way to Canadian National Youth Boxing Team roster spot for 2022-23 season

NEW WATERFORD, NS – Brayden LeBlanc recalls walking into the New Waterford Boxing Club on June 14, 2017, not knowing what to expect.

The New Waterford product was 12-years-old and was convinced by friends and family to give the sport of boxing a chance, knowing it would be an opportunity for him to learn discipline and self-defence.

“At first, I didn’t really take it seriously,” said LeBlanc. “I knew I wanted to learn how to protect myself and not get hurt, but I also thought it was a good way to stay in shape, so I gave it a try.”

It didn’t take long before LeBlanc found his passion for the sport. A couple of months into training, he was approached with the opportunity to step into the ring for his first fight of his career.

At first, LeBlanc wasn’t sure if the timing was right. However, after watching clubmates and brothers Matthew and Josh Ross sparring during training, he knew he wanted to get his first taste of action as soon as possible.

“I fought a good guy by the name of Brayden Paul from the Red Tribe Boxing Club and I actually won the fight,” said the now 17-year-old LeBlanc. “I was asked if I wanted to try a fight right away and I told them I did and lucky enough for me it went well.”

The victory did not come by way of luck. In fact, LeBlanc won his first seven fights to begin his career, which gave him the confidence and motivation to take on stronger opponents moving forward.

“Once I went in the ring and realized I was up in front of everyone, I really seemed to enjoy it and feed off the attention,” said LeBlanc. “Things just went from there and since then boxing has been a huge part of my life and continues to be today.”

As the opponents became stronger, LeBlanc continued to progress as a fighter and learned some lessons along the way.

“I was doing too good against the competition I was facing so they wanted me to have a little bit more of a challenge,” said LeBlanc. “I lost a few fights and I think that really taught me how to lose. I didn’t take losses the wrong way and I was a good sport through winning and losing and that’s how you have to be.”

Regardless of the results, LeBlanc always had compassion for his opponent. In fact, he’s always tried to help other boxers with their skills outside of the ring when the fight’s over.

“After the fights, I’d give them tips if I knew any to help them improve as well,” said LeBlanc. “We all push ourselves to be the best we can be, and we try to learn from each other and that’s still happening today.”

Brayden LeBlanc holds a championship belt he won during a fight in Spryfield early in his boxing career.  The New Waterford product was named to the Canadian Youth National Team for the 2022-23 season and is the lone Cape Breton fighter on the club.  JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST.  -Jeremy Fraser
Brayden LeBlanc holds a championship belt he won during a fight in Spryfield early in his boxing career. The New Waterford product was named to the Canadian Youth National Team for the 2022-23 season and is the lone Cape Breton fighter on the club. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST. -Jeremy Fraser

GOING FAR IN THE SPORT

As LeBlanc continued his training and continued to have success, the coaches and trainers around him began telling him about the possibilities of where the sport could take him.

“Everyone told me that boxing could take you farther than any other sport, but I never believed them,” said LeBlanc. “Once we started going on trips to different parts of the country, I started to realize they weren’t lying, and I could really go far in my career if I put in the work.”

It was at that time when LeBlanc focused solely on boxing, putting in more time in the gym and training harder than he did in previous years.

LeBlanc began competing in provincial championships. Last December, he won his provincial fight, defeating Brayden Collins, during an event at Center 200 in Sydney.

During that time, LeBlanc was working with Boxing Nova Scotia’s high-performance lead Brad Ross and training with the province’s Canada Games team out of Halifax.

LeBlanc’s talents were quickly noticed by Ross, who prior to moving to the Halifax area, ran the Sydney Boxing Club for 15 years.

“Over the past two and a half years, Brayden has really come a long way and he’s improved a lot,” said Ross. “He gives 100 per cent every time he’s in the gym training and during training camps and brings it every competition I’ve ever seen him.

“He fights his heart out every time he steps in the ring and I think he really has all the tools and all the potential to really excel in the sport.”

Because of his provincial victory, LeBlanc earned the right to participate in the Boxing Canada national youth team training camp earlier this year in Montreal.

Boxing Gloves - Jeremy Fraser
Boxing Gloves – Jeremy Fraser

NATIONAL TEAM JOURNEY

LeBlanc traveled to La Belle Province and was accompanied by Ross, who worked as a coach during the training camp. He was one of 20 fighters at the event.

Despite being the lone Cape Breton boxer at the camp, he was joined by fellow Nova Scotians Zion Ash and Sierra Eshouzadeh, who were also trying out for the team in both the men’s and women’s categories, respectively.

LeBlanc admits the training camp was an experience he’ll never forget, noting a portion of the event was focused on the technical aspect of the sport.

“It was hard, but it wasn’t exhaustingly hard,” said LeBlanc. “They got us to do exercises and we learned different fighting styles and little tricks to help us, so it was really beneficial.”

The camp also featured strength, speed, endurance, muscle memory and reaction time tests in an effort to learn more about the fighters.

LeBlanc returned to Cape Breton and felt confident about his chances of making the team. He knew he took the camp seriously and felt he did enough to impress the coaches.

“There was a little bit of worry, but I knew I had done everything I could, and I was proud of myself for it,” said LeBlanc, a Grade 12 student enrolled in the trades program at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines.

“It was the waiting to learn if I made the team that was the most difficult part of the process when I came home.”

Last week, LeBlanc received the news he had been waiting to hear – he had made the national youth team in the 71 kg division, 156-pound class — and would represent the country at several events during the 2022-23 season.

Ross wasn’t the least bit surprised LeBlanc had earned a spot on the team.

“I pretty much expected him to be there,” said Ross. “He’s been on the radar now for the last several months based on some of the competitions that he’s had. I knew he would be in the top three in his weight class, but he ended up being No. 1. ”

When you think of boxing in New Waterford, several fighters come to mind including champions Les Gillis and Archie (Bear) Hannigan as well as the fighting Nemis’ to name a few.

LeBlanc said looking back at boxers who have come before him, he’s proud to be representing not only Cape Breton but New Waterford on the international boxing stage.

“I wanted my name to be known for boxing in New Waterford as well,” said LeBlanc. “Everyone knows those guys and what they did for the sport and our community and to follow in their footsteps is quite the honour.”

Three Lions Promotions announced Thursday the postponement of its
Three Lions Promotions announced Thursday the postponement of its “Revival” boxing card which was scheduled to take place on Feb. 5 at Center 200 in Sydney. STOCK PHOTO. – Contributed

UP NEXT

Along with LeBlanc, Ash and Eshouzadeh were also successful in making the national team, marking the first time since 2015-16 Nova Scotia has had three fighters on the youth team.

The national youth team will feature eight men and two women boxers. Among the other fighters is Owen Paquette of Ontario, they are of former UCCB Capers men’s hockey team goaltender Darryl Paquette and Bridgeport native Lois (McMullin) Paquette.

The team will begin the season by traveling to Eger, Hungary, in June for the Bornemissza Youth and Junior Memorial Tournament.

Meanwhile, LeBlanc will travel next month to Alberta for the Calgary Cup with the province’s Canada Games team, before joining the national team for their busy schedule.

The national team will also travel to Germany in July and will attend the Youth World Championship in Spain in November.

LeBlanc credits past and current coaches for helping him reach this stage of his career.

“There were a few people and coaches that have really helped me reach my potential,” said LeBlanc. “Emerson Rose was one of them who helped me and of course, my current coach Shawn Clements has been great and so many others – I can’t thank everyone enough.”


– Jeremy Fraser is the sports reporter for the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.


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