When Danielle Bouchard became the first Canadian boxer to fight a world championship match in July 2008, the event didn’t exactly make the news.
It must be said that in the hours before his duel against the WBA super bantamweight champion, Marcela Acuña, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Canadian had made sure to capture the attention of the sports press by announcing the hiring of Georges Laraque.
Only the venerable boxing columnist from montreal daily Daniel Cloutier will deign to dedicate an article with quotes on the defeat of Bouchard by unanimous decision of the judges. He will also be the last professional scare of the then 40-year-old Jonquiéroise.
Fortunately, times have changed a lot since then. Under the helm of Marie-Ève Dicaire, women’s boxing has seen a meteoric rise in the Quebec market, so much so that most media won’t miss a thing from the showdown between Kim Clavel and the WBC light flyweight champion, Yesenia Gómez, organized. On Friday night at the final of a Groupe Yvon Michel event at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal. The gala will also be presented live on pay television.
And a little over fourteen years after the bitter disappointment experienced in Argentina, Bouchard will have a new opportunity to live the intoxication of a world championship conquest, since it was she who directed Clavel until now. Portrait of a pioneer who finally emerges from the shadows.
In the beginning, nothing predestined Danielle Bouchard to become a coach. Her career as an amateur boxer gives the impression of being a series of missed dates: women’s boxing only became an Olympic sport in 2012 and she was two months old to be eligible to fight at the 1st World Championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania. , in 2001.
With nothing left to gain from amateur boxing, he turned pro in 2002, but expectations were decidedly low. “I didn’t become a world champion and I didn’t have time to build my career to become one,” Bouchard said during a long and generous interview with RDS.ca last week. It really wasn’t easy…
“Certainly there was not the enthusiasm that there is now. Young people now have beautiful role models, which we didn’t have at the time, with the exception of Christy Martin. »
Truth be told, it was Bouchard herself who served as a role model for the female boxers around her. It was her training partner Nathalie Forget who was the first to seek her advice.
“You can’t improvise as a coach in the same way. It was Nathalie who asked him to be one of her trainers, but [Danielle] he initially replied that he was just going to give him a hand, recalls Bouchard’s wife and internationally renowned trainer Stéphan Laouche. Vicky Pelletier then grafted onto this, Ariane Fortin came in to do tricks. »
The successes accumulate and one thing leads to another, Bouchard will make his Olympic dream come true at the Rio 2016 Games alongside Mandy Bujold and Fortin. “I was the only trainer in my own right,” she explains. She didn’t want to just hang around and be the one giving water. I wanted to be in the ring, to be the one with the responsibility. It was a very good thriller. »
“What’s especially impressive is that she has a full-time job as a teacher and is very involved in that as well,” adds Larouche. Her planning, organization and work structure with all her athletes means that she always ends up triumphing. She knew how to develop beautiful relationships with her athletes, imbued with respect and justice. »
Work in the amateur and professional ranks is basically the same, but it’s really when boxers find success in the pros that trainers finally get some attention. This was the case with Larouche. It was also for Marc Ramsay.
That moment now seems ripe for Bouchard, as Clavel could become only the second Quebecer after Dicaire to capture a world title on Friday night. This would prove to be the apotheosis of an eleven-plus-year association that obviously goes back to the amateur ranks.
“I met her at a national team training camp after winning my first Canadian championship at 18 years old,” Clavel said. With her, I saw many things that I had never seen before in my hometown of Joliette. I wondered why she had never seen all this and that’s when I asked her if she wanted to train me.
“I don’t take anything away from my former coach Michel Morin, who is a very good coach who gave me confidence, but Danielle gave me wings. She showed me what it is to be an elite athlete: how to think, reflect and be better. She is a true pioneer. »
Without trying to correct her protégé, Bouchard refuses to take full credit. “When I decided to become a coach, I did my presentation about my team,” she says. It is extremely important to surround athletes with people they really trust.
“I am thinking of our physical trainer Fred [Laberge]to Stephan, everyone’s mentor, to [mon frère] Pierre, who has been there from the beginning, to Sara [Kali], my right arm. Everyone takes care of everyone, everyone helps each other. That’s why it works! »
Not all high-level athletes succeed in that transition, but Bouchard had two assets for success: knowledge and the art of communicating it.
“She saw all the development of Éric Lucas, Lucian Bute, Leonard Dorin and Jean Pascal. She saw many things in the whole world and had a knowledge that lay dormant in her, Larouche lists. But above all she is a great communicator and that plays a very important role.
“The respect he shows and his ability to communicate ensure that his athletes are motivated and then achieve results. She takes care of several things: structure, calendar, schedule and planning of training and fights. It’s natural for her. »
Do you regret losing something? Of not having been able to reap the fruits of their hard work?
“In the beginning, you had to be a visionary, you really had to believe in it,” acknowledges Bouchard. [La lutteuse] Martina [Dugrenier] and I was inspired by women’s hockey at the time, it gave us a lot of hope even though we knew it was a process of about 20 years before our sports appeared in the Games. But the fact is that we are not far from parity. We are only missing 3-minute rounds and 12-round world championship fights.
“I may not have had the opportunity to participate in the Games, but my journey as a coach allowed me to realize my dreams as an athlete. And I can say that it is just as rewarding. I never stopped believing in it: it told me that the future would be beautiful for those who were going to arrive. »
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