A few months ago, Charlie Cavanagh wasn’t convinced she could step back in the ring and compete at the same level.
Pandemic restrictions had hampered her ability to effectively train, and self-doubt was creeping in.
“When the pandemic happened, I sort of got out of boxing because, I mean, if you can’t be within six feet of someone, you certainly can’t punch them in the face,” Cavanagh said.
But then, the 21-year-old Saint John native received an invite to the 2022 AMBC Continental Championships in Ecuador.
At first, she was hesitant, the invitation required a quick turnaround, and the University of New Brunswick student was in the midst of studying for exams.
“My coach Joe Blanchard always believes in me. He’s like ‘you got this, and if you don’t do this, they’re going to give your spot to someone else,” Cavanagh recalled.
Though it started as a high-pressure situation, it didn’t take long for her to settle in.
“It was kinda like riding a bike. I got back in the ring, and I felt so comfortable, so at home,” she stated.
A bronze medal finish earned her the opportunity to box in the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
Even though Cavanagh was only just returning to the sport, her expectations remained sky-high.
“I was confident. I was determined. I was going there for gold, and although I came back with silver, I won four fights to get to the gold medal match, and it was a great performance,” Cavanagh remarked.
Her silver medal finish in the Welterweight division came in a loss to Busenaz Sürmeneli, a Turkish Olympian who captured the gold medal at the Tokyo Summer Games.
Asked about the people and traits that pushed her to the world-class level, Cavanagh remained humble and gave credit to the City of Saint John and its residents.
“Saint John, New Brunswick got me there. Because this entire community is so supportive and so welcoming to me,” she said, adding the community was always generous during fundraising events.
“When you come from a place that’s overlooked, and sometimes you’re underestimated, it just makes you determined, and you want to prove that you are just as ready and just as capable as the girls from the big cities.”
Joe Blanchard has coached Cavanagh since she came on to the boxing scene and is the President of Saint John Golden Gloves.
“If she heard that this isn’t how we wanted it, we’re looking for a little better, she wouldn’t allow time to go home and train, that was we’re going to stay here until that’s done,” Blanchard said about her work ethic.
Cavanagh’s impact isn’t limited to what she does in the ring, explained Blanchard, as she has become a role model for many in the community.
“We have a young female athlete who trains in our gym who started off very shy as well, and she happened to be able to grow with Charlie through this journey, and now she’s beginning her own journey to the next level and Charlie being her hero, it only makes sense that she uses her as her role model and that goal setter,” Blanchard said.
“Charlie has that same effect on almost every young athlete she meets.”
After barely missing out on qualifying for Tokyo, Blanchard guaranteed Cavanagh would represent Canada at the Paris 2024 Olympics. He believes she will bring home the gold medal.
“Charlie doesn’t go to compete, she always goes to win,” he said.
In the meantime, Cavanagh will walk across the stage to receive her Bachelor of Science degree. She also plans to take a little shopping spree after her silver medal finish earned her $50,000.
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