New Brunswick fields the first female boxing team at the Canada Winter Games
Next week, Tessa Scott and Lily Brown will do something no female boxer has done before: get in the ring at the Canada Games.
Scott, who hails from Saint John and Brown of Boundary Creek near Moncton, will compete in the 2023 Canadian Winter Games in Prince Edward Island, which will be the first to include women’s boxing.
When Brown found out she was going to the games, she said it was nerve-wracking. Having never competed at such a high level, she wondered if she was good enough.
“But now I know that all the girls who go are in the same position,” she said. “I think we’re all pretty excited because it’s the first time girls have been allowed to compete.”
Brown sees it as a step forward that extends beyond the ropes around the ring.
“This is great for all women in all sports and especially for women in boxing because it will open up a lot of new opportunities for a lot of young girls that they never would have had before,” she said.
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Scott shares Brown’s occasional self-doubt, but she’s excited at the prospect of making history.
“It would feel very, very special to be known as the first woman to win the Canada Games in boxing,” she said.
Her trainer thinks she has the juice to do it.
“I’d bet on Tessa to win if we could bet,” said Team New Brunswick coach Joe Blanchard. “But we don’t do that.”
Both athletes share a local role model in Charlie Cavanagh, a Saint John boxer who finished runner-up at the 2022 IBA World Boxing Championships.
Cavanagh said she was excited to take on the role because early in her career there was no one locally to look up to. And she has a special message for Scott and Brown.
“I’m proud of you and everyone else in New Brunswick is proud of you. And you will kill it. I’m just so excited about it. That’s, it makes history, it really is,” she said.
Working up to the games
Scott comes to boxing with a hidden advantage.
“I’m a dancer. And I was a dancer before boxing. So I never thought I’d be interested in that,” she said.
Her mother, Andrea Scott, said her daughter combines her boxing with ballet training. “The dichotomy there. It’s almost funny,” she said.
Blanchard said her quick feet would come in handy. “Tessa’s ability to be elusive is key,” he said.
Over six years, Blanchard said, Scott has gone from a timid fighter to a powerful force.
“Every time she’s grown up, she left old Tessa in the past. It’s always a new version of yourself, and the new version is always better and stronger,” he said.
Sport was in Brown’s blood. Her mother, who is a boxer and helps out in the gym, got her into it when she was nine.
She thought it would be a good idea to teach her children how to protect themselves.
“I’ve loved it ever since, it’s just always been a passion of mine,” Brown said.
Like Scott, Brown believes her footwork gives her an advantage.
“Being able to move around and trying to stay relaxed is one of the things that’s probably going to help me the most during games and will help me win some of the games,” Brown said.
In preparation for the Canada Games, her training schedule went from two days a week to four or six days.
But she also had to make changes outside of the gym to gain 12 pounds ahead of her fights.
“That was probably the most difficult part of my new apprenticeship,” she said.
After months of preparation, she feels ready.
“I’ve probably been at the right weight for a few months now. I think my cardio and footwork was very good compared to my last fight. And I just think I’ve improved a lot,” Brown said.
With the power of her community behind her, Scott feels ready too.
When asked what makes her a champion, she said, “Well, you know, I’m from Saint John, New Brunswick. And I’m from Saint John Golden Gloves.”