KENNETCOOK: Boxing may be a year round sport but, the build up to the year-end competition in April really commences in January. For the most part, boxers are back in their gyms after the holidays with their eyes on the Championships in April, in Quebec City for 2017. Some boxers don’t even take that break over the holidays – their ultimate goal being a medal at Nationals, and for the youth and senior athletes a place on Team Canada.

Having had a taste of this pleasure previously, as a three time Canadian Champion in the Youth 64kg weight class, Wyatt Sanford has his eyes set on that goal again this year. In 2016, Sanford lost his place on Team Canada but was later invited to join the team in various training sessions and events. While he enjoyed that, he ultimately would like to be a full member of the team again in 2017. But that won’t come effortlessly.

Wyatt moved to the Senior Elite Men’s Division in 2017, after turning 18 last November. This means new rules for competition and a much larger group to compete with, now facing opponents up to the age of 35. As announced in early February, Elite Male boxers use headgear up to their final bout in a tournament when the headgear is then removed. This announcement was made just after a large tournament in Brampton, Ontario, February 3-5, where the Elite Male boxers fought the entire tournament without headgear.

But bigger than both of these in Sanford’s weight class is the current 64kg Champ – well known, Arthur Biyarslanov, 26, also known as the Chechen Wolf, who represented Canada at the World Championships (ranking 5th), the Pan Am Games (ranking 1st), and the Olympics, coming home with 5th place.

While most might find this a daunting task, Sanford and Biyarslanov have enjoyed sparring sessions together in the past, when Biyarslanov requested Sanford for a sparring partner to prepare for his larger tournaments. When asked if he was worried about competing with Biyarslanov, Sanford’s response was “Nope, not at all. I’ve got nothing to lose, but he does.”

The previous match for Biyarslanov at the Brampton Cup this past weekend had his opponent throwing in the towel after 1 minute into the first round. Sanford, however, demonstrated from round one of the final match versus Biyarslanov that he would be a contender for the win at that tournament. One referee referred to both boxers as “very clean and technical.” Ultimately, Sanford lost to Biyarslanov, but knows what he needs to do to prepare for Nationals in April, and hopefully a rematch with Biyarslanov in the finals, once again.

Sanford felt good after the bout, stating, “Arthur knows I’m competition and now I need to focus on being ready to meet him again.” Taking only Monday off, Sanford is back in the gym, Citadel Amateur Boxing Club, training seven days a week, with Nationals coming up April 25th – 30th, in Quebec City.