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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Valley East teens secure a boxing bounty of OSG medals
by Randy Pascal

By the time the middle of August rolled around, Peter Yannacoureas was ready for a holiday.

One could hardly blame him. The summer of 2016 was an extra busy one for the Valley East Boxing Club crew, as Yannacoureas and Bill Rannelli Jr coached their teenage pugilists to a highly successful performance at the Ontario Summer Games.

Sixteen year-old Justin Labelle would lead the way, earning gold in the Junior "C" Novice 44-46 kg division, and garnering a silver medal while helping fill the field in the 48 kg weight class.

With no previous bouts on his boxing resume, the Valley East fighter made the most of his chance to step in the ring, kicking off his career one weight grouping above his natural weight.

"The first fight, I was really nervous," said Labelle. "My second fight, I wasn't that nervous, I got that out of the way. I tried to keep my mind focused, remembering the training I went through. I just went in, trying to do the best that I can."

By the time he was back against an evenly matched opponent, Labelle was ready to overcome the fact that the young boxer in the opposite corner had no less than seven bouts to his credit as he stepped in against the VEBC representative.

"I was throwing a lot more punches, and slipping more," said Labelle. "And I was just more confident because the first guy was heavier, and the second guy was actually my weight."

Lance Chretien picked up a second gold medal for the Valley East Club, securing the win in the Youth Open 60-64 kg class, despite a last minute change of plans.

"I actually fought somebody different than the guy I scouted (and was supposed to fight)," said Chretien. "This guy was the first one I fought who was actually taller than me. That was beautiful."

"I could finally use a lot of the tricks that I wanted to try. I do a lot of slips and hooks and stuff, and it's hard to get under the punches when the guy is shorter."

By far the most experienced of the VEBC trio, Chretien also displayed the most appreciation for the unique aspects of the boxing competition that was wrapped in, part and parcel, of the Summer Games.

"The Opening Ceremonies were amazing," he said. "Walking in, with all the flashing lights, all the people, it was breathtaking. And just the memories with the guys, since this is the first time we went as a team. Usually, I'm there alone."

More similar to Labelle than Chretien, Brett Huard had all of one fight of experience before he tripled his bout card in Mississauga. No surprise that the Games provided a wonderful learning environment for the local who earned a bronze medal competing in a Junior "C" Novice 63-66 kg foursome.

"I learned to prepare myself better, and I fought different types of boxers, so I'm learning how to defend against different styles," said Huard. "In my first fight, I gave him a good shot, and it hurt him a bit."

"But instead of keeping on him, and making sure, I gave him a little bit of time, and he had time to recuperate. I probably should have kept on him." All three, along with their coaches, will now enjoy a break from their training, kicking it back up shortly as they prepare for a couple of key events between now and the end of the year.

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