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After hanging up the gloves, boxer becomes national champ

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Troy Shantz

She’s the Canadian championship that almost wasn’t.

Two years ago, Sarnia’s Kaitlyn Clark had walked away from boxing, seemingly forever. Today, she’s one of the very best in Canada.

The 64-kilogram fighter became a 2019 elite gold medalist last month at the National Championships in Victoria, defeating boxers from Quebec and British Columbia to claim a national title.

“You only go if you think you’re going to win,” she said.

That looked very doubtful in 2016, however. After the sudden passing of her father and amid mounting personal stress, Clark stepped away from the ring.

Training was a bore. She’d lost her love of the sport.

“I was done. (I thought), I’m not having fun anymore. Why am I doing this?” said Clark, 26.

Working for the federal government in Ottawa at the time, Clark made the decision to move back home in late 2017. The St. Patrick’s grad took a job at the County of Lambton and reconnected with family, as well as old friends at the Bluewater Boxing Club.

Casually, she began helping other fighters train at the Front Street gym, and the positive environment there brought about a change in attitude.

Bluewater coach Wade Fleming asked Clark if she wanted to return to the ring. She was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed to try another bout, she said.

Working with Sarnia coaches Fleming, Tom Hennessy and Chuck Evans, the training regime seemed different. It was fun again.

“I was boxing because I liked it. It was no longer, ‘I’m expected to win.’ It was more, ‘Just go in there and have a good time.’

Around that time she reset her sights on becoming the best in Canada.

Clark spent the next year punching her way back into contention in the 69-kilogram weight division. She had a strong season but narrowly lost the 2018 Ontario title, meaning her journey to nationals would have to wait.

But after consulting with her coaches, she shed the weight to become a 62-kg fighter. And based on her record, Boxing Ontario chose her to represent the province.

Competing 11 pounds lighter proved to be an advantage, she said. At 5 foot 8 she was shorter than most 69-kg fighters, but in the 64-kg division she is taller.

Clark defeated B.C. fighter Krishan Lysenko in a 4-1 decision on April 27 to win the gold. When she realized she’d won she embraced coach Evans, who travelled with her to B.C. Both were in tears.

“That’s what it was for me… I’m finally here. And this is now just the start of a brand new chapter,” she said.

Clark, an executive assistant at the County, was scheduled to attend a Team Canada training camp in Montreal last weekend. She divides her training between Bluewater and We Are Fitness in Point Edward, and spars regularly in Kitchener.

And she has a new goal: to qualify for the World Championships in Russia later this year.

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