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T. Michael Hennessy, Law Office
Caruso Club
Saturday, Sep. 23, 2017
Sudbury boxers are Brampton bound
2017-02-03
by Randy Pascal

A Sudbury and area boxing coaching mainstay since 1972, Peter Yannacoureas has guided more athletes through the rigours of the ring than he likely cares to remember. And while it might be a stretch that each and every one of the pugilists represented a completely unique mold from which to work, it would certainly be fair to note that the spectrum of personalities, skill-sets, physical make-ups and backgrounds is a wide and varied one.

That is the case, once again, as Yannacoureasa and fellow Valley East Boxing Club (VEBC) coach Bill Rannelli Jr prepare to travel south with an intriguing duo, two competitors who will don the VEBC colours at the 2017 Brampton Cup this weekend.

Though the common thread of top-end athletic competition on other battle grounds might bind Matin Abianah and Derrick Rantala, there is far more that contrasts the two apart. A native of the Brampton area, Abianah moved to Sudbury a few years back to pursue his secondary school studies at Laurentian University, part of the Voyageur soccer roster for a small handful of seasons.

The “beautiful game” and the “sweet science”, however, are not often perceived as natural dance partners. That much seemed obvious to Abianah, right from the very beginning. “I used to watch Floyd Mayweather fights, with my friends, but I never thought I would grow to like boxing,” suggested the 25 year old student, preparing to graduate from the Law program at L.U. this spring.

“I went to a local gym one time with a friend and kind of fell in love with it.” There was, without a doubt, a completely new challenge that came part and parcel of developing his boxing acumen, a path he first stepped on to roughly a year ago.

Thankfully, there were some interesting building blocks from his time on the pitch that have proven particularly helpful. “Because I had played soccer and other sports in my life, I was able to have really good footwork,” said Abianah.

“You can move around in the ring, give your opponents different angles, different looks, lead them into different counters, different punches, and stuff like that. And my stamina helped me develop in the sport a little bit quicker.”

This weekend will actually mark the very first bout for the 75kg boxer, a chance to put into practice all of the teachings of the past twelve months. “I’m excited about it,” said Abianah. “I’m just going to go in there and see what happens.”

“My coaches kind of preached defense to me, from day one, being able to protect yourself, and being mentally sharp and focused. My goal is to take the least amount of punishment possible, and give out as much punishment as possible.”

There was likely a time, as a relatively young elementary student perhaps, that Rantala might have joined Abianah on the soccer field. Yet he is far more well-known for transitioning from his time spent on ball diamonds in the summers, over to a passion for basketball, one that would see him through his time with some of the Lasalle Lancer powerhouse teams of the past decade, and then on to a couple of seasons with the Cambrian Golden Shield.

“I had thought about maybe taking up boxing, at some point, but I never had the schedule to do it,” said the 22 year old Sudbury native. Working on a post-secondary degree in business, Rantala provides the VEBC coaching staff with yet another athlete who is drawn to the more intellectual side of the sport, even if it is out of necessity, at times.

“In my weight class (91kg+), the guys are all bigger than me, heavier than me,” said Rantala. “I’m in at 240 pounds, and those guys are at three hundred. They’re big dudes. I try and out-box my opponent, and not get into a fist-fight.”

“Compared to the other super heavyweights, I will try and rely on my footwork to try and go around them,” Rantala continued. “A lot of them are just looking for that one punch to end the fight. With me, it’s more about multiple punches.”

Unlike his club-mate, the local product will start the competition with a pair of fights already under his belt, allowing for the lessons that were learned to be integrated into the game plan this time around.

“My cardio is better,” he said. “I didn’t actually run going into those (previous) fights, and I learned my lesson. I worked a lot on my defense, because I found my defense was lacking in my last one.”

And if Rantala can share the benefit of his “in ring” experience with Abianah, the opposite is true when it comes to the event itself, as the latter attended last February, simply as a member of the crowd.

“I really focused on watching a lot of the boxers and how they prepared for their fights,” said Abianah. “A lot of them blocked out everything, so my main thing is not to worry about the crowd, just listen to Peter.” No matter how different the Valley East boxers might be, this is likely good advice, for one and all.

Joining the VEBC crew in Brampton will be a three person delegation from Top Glove Boxing Club. Head coach Gord Apolloni will be travelling south with Jessica Brugess (51kg), Bruno Desrosiers (64kg) and Daniel Schmidt (42kg), all of whom claimed top spot in their weight class at the recent Gold Glove meet.

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