North Preston native wins gold
Ian Froese, Staff Contributor
If this was the Canada Games swan song for boxing, Nova Scotia will be remembered as being among the loudest to sing its praises.
Over 5500 boisterous fans packed the legendary Halifax Forum last Friday evening en route to the home side’s two golds and two silvers.
Jason Downey of North Preston had the crowd in a joyous mood early when he earned gold in the 52-kilogram class in a fiery battle. Nova Scotia struck gold once again later in the evening when Matt Wittford exceeded his opponent in a tiresome 91-kg bout that required a tiebreaking countback.
Silver medals were counted from Sackville’s Taylor Gordon in 64-kg and Cyrus Taylor of Middleton in the 69-kilogram championship.
Nova Scotia’s four medals equals their haul from Whitehorse in 2007. These are Nova Scotia’s first boxing golds since 2003.
Downey, 15, rewarded the supportive audience early with two consecutive uppercuts, leading him to a 5 – 1 advantage after the first against Manitoba’s Julio Escorcia. He showered further points in the second, and played more conservatively in the third for a 17 – 4 final.
“It was wonderful,” he said, having composed himself after bursting into tears when the referee raised his arm. “Winning that gold medal meant everything to me. I trained four years for this.”
“I can’t even describe it. I’m so happy right now,” Downey said.
In the final bout, Wittford, 16, kept pounding to beat Alberta’s Brandon Cardinal in a draining fight which had each party on the ropes.
After a 3 – 1 lead for Wittford, his counterpart closed the deficit to tie it at four. The judges’ scorecards were referenced in the countback to officially give Wittford the 10 – 9 edge.
Earlier, Taylor Gordon, son of Nova Scotian head coach Wayne Gordon, was involved in a shady fight that had the crowd raining boos on Ontario’s Zsolt Daranyi.
Daranyi fired a low jab in a rough first round, causing Gordon to keel down for a split second. The score was notched at three apiece, until a standing eight-count sealed Gordon’s fate. He fell 9 – 3.
“I’d never call down my opponent. Everyone fights to their style,” replied Gordon, when asked about his opponent’s questionable tactics. “I’m sure if you asked him, he’d say that I was the dirty player. I left it all on the ring, I have no regrets.”
Silver was also the prize for Cyrus Taylor, 16, when he met Ontario’s Luis Valdivia in the 69-kg fight. Taylor refused to topple over in the third round, getting in well-timed shots, but he would ultimately drop the decision 8 – 5.
Chants of “Cyrus! Cyrus!” rang through the crowd during the match, a gesture the Nova Scotian will not soon forget.
“If they can make a kid feel like this after losing a gold-medal match, what else can you ask for?” he said. “I’m the happiest kid in the world right now.”
Nova Scotia head coach Wayne Gordon was also thrilled with the evening’s results.
“I don’t know, it’s like the day after Christmas,” he said, describing the bittersweet feeling he has after watching the journey of his seven-member team close. “It’s hard to fathom. It’s hard for me to contemplate what to say, I’m very emotional right now.”
Boxing is not on the program for the 2015 Games in B.C. after the sport was dropped for failing to meet certain criteria. The sport’s results were not disclosed. Boxing can reapply for a spot in the 2019 Games.
In other gold-medal action, PEI’s Robert MacMillan was adopted by the Halifax crowd as he came back to win 19 – 12 in the 81-kg class. Saskatchewan’s Brody Pigeon, BC’s Jessy Brown, David Theroux of Quebec, and Ontario’s Cody Crowley also left the ring victorious in their respective divisions.