From the completely inexperienced to those only beginning to enjoy a level of comfort in the ring, the young men representing the Top Gloves Boxing Academy returned home with much to talk about from their recent appearance at the 2020 Brampton Cup.
So too did the man behind it all, the head coach who has witnessed this trek south far more times than he wishes to remember.
"We always talk about having a plan before you fight, writing the plan down," said Gord Apolloni, his eight athlete crew back at home following their efforts at the largest boxing meet in the land. "The young kids, they did this plan two days before the event, and then did some visualization, and then they did exactly what their plans said."
"It was phenomenal."
"My plan was to change directions every second while punching," recalled eight year old Cameron Lalonde, a grade three student at Alliance St Joseph in Chelmsford. "I was kind of able to do that. My coach was super happy that I was actually following my plan."
Even his father (Andy) was proud, despite the allegiance of the latter to the sport of wrestling, an athletic pursuit in which he rose to prominence on a national scale, and enjoys well-deserved recognition in the elite coaching circles of the sport.
"I used to wrestle, but then I tried boxing, and I chose boxing instead of wrestling," said Lalonde, the youngest of three children in the family. "I don't know what happened - I just chose boxing."
Just four months into his training regimen with Top Gloves, Lalonde has displayed a willingness to take the teachings to heart, heeding the words of wisdom from a man who accompanied the Canadian Olympic Boxing delegation to the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
"Coach always says if you don't know your combos, then you're going to have trouble in the ring," said Lalonde. "We mostly do combos like double jabs, straight left hook and stuff. What you're going to want to do is to make him tired so that you can do whatever you want to do."
"You want to dodge a lot of his punches, and then he will be tired and then you can throw all of your punches." If it sounds like the pre-teenage pugilist is preaching patience at an age where the natural instinct is to step into the ring, guns a blazing, throwing punches from every which direction, you have it right.
"You want to be smart and not just go in boom, boom, boom, boom, boom," said Lalonde. Joining ultra young teammates Darryl Savoie and Jackson Savoie in garnering their earliest sense of competition in the sport, part of the "Fun Box" division, Lalonde wasted little time shedding the inevitable butterflies.
"I was nervous, but then when the bell rang, it all went out of my mind," he stated. "I wasn't nervous anymore."
Now roughly twenty bouts into his boxing journey, 27 year-old Youssef Elbouacharoui has also digested some early lessons, including breaking some bad pre-fight habits from his first shot at Quebec champion Jonathan Bourget more than a year ago.
"The day before my first fight with him, I didn't eat good - I was eating crap," noted the Moroccan born former native of Montreal. "I was eating too much. I was feeling so heavy, I went into the ring and felt like I was in slow motion."
"This time, I made sure I didn't do the same mistake."
The results speak for themselves. Elbouacharoui captured a split decision before giving seasoned Canadian champion Eric Basran (60 kg) all he could handle in the final. "He (Basran) has an unorthodox style of boxing, opening his legs really wide and keeping his hands down," noted the local hopeful.
"That doesn't really interest me. I really want to stay in range, next time, and be sure to slip and duck all of his punches. I wasn't focusing enough on my explosiveness. I felt I was a little slow with that, but with more work and time, I will get it next time."
Still, there is no denying the progress that El Bouacharoui has displayed, closing the gap significantly with Basran after turning the tables on Bourget in his Brampton Cup opener on Friday night.
"In my first fight, I was really able to go in the angles to get to his body with right uppercuts," he said. "A lot of the time, I was able to do that. Also, I was able to slip his jab and come back with the right upper cut to his chin."
The game plan, in the mind of Elbouacharoui, is fairly clear-cut, moving forward. "Whatever Gord (Apolloni) tells me to do, I will do," he said. "I realize that it really works."
Though that realization might be a few fights away for Top Gloves newcomers Nathan Miglioranza and Jonathan Landry, who lost to Achilles Shinas (Windsor) and Kyle Pinto (Hardknocks Boxing - Toronto), they need look no further than import Owen Paquette for encouragement.
Living in Brantford but training in Sudbury every second weekend, the son of former local goaltender Darryl Paquette and nephew of one-time Sudbury Wolves' forward Andy Paquette captured gold in the men's Jr "C" Open 48 kg weight class. Paquette recorded back to back unanimous decision victories over Jeremy Drapeau (Club de Boxe - Montreal) and Ludovik Jodouin (Les Apprentis - Longueil) over the weekend in Brampton.
Rounding out the Top Gloves grouping was Patrick Martin, who dropped a tough decision to Jacob Blais of Montreal, but will now re-focus on the Golden Gloves provincials in April.
The Valley East Boxing Club was also represented at the event, with Caleb Langlois (Youth Novice 60 kg final) beaten by Troy Kleinschroth (Champion City - St Catharines) and Aidan Bedard (Men Jr C Novice - 44 kg final) taken out by Areg Manukyan of Siberia.