Workout with Monika: A rookie boxer with a mean right hook

Monika lands her first punch in 37 years


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Monika learns to box from a national champion

The first and only time I’ve ever hit anyone was in 1978. Tired of being bullied, I set out to teach Terry Lee Yonge a lesson. I remember very clearly closing my eyes, pulling my elbow back and hitting her square in the nose then running as fast as my seven-year-old legs could carry me. Terry never bothered me again.

That is what I was thinking about as I pulled up to Clancy’s Boxing Academy. You can’t help but hear the Rocky III soundtrack and “Eye of the Tiger” in your head. 

In their two years of business, owners Michael Clancy and Kristina Ejem have created a space boasting an espresso bar and cafe, weight area and full-size boxing ring. Their vision is to make boxing accessible to everyone, build a worldwide boxing franchise and to create an environment that is free of ego and filled with empowerment. 

Arriving to teach me a few things in the ring is Mandy Bujold, the only female boxer to win back-to-back gold medals at the Pan Am games. She is about half my weight, but I’m still shaking in my sneakers. She immediately puts me at ease by letting me know that this is a workout, and the intention is not (even in competition) to hurt the other person but to practise technique.

We start with some jumping rope (which is a lot harder than I remember it being when I was a kid). Next is six to eight rounds on the bags. They even have a punching bag that counts your punches per minute and tracks your strongest punch! Then six to eight rounds of pair work in the ring. No one is allowed to actually spar until they are a licensed amateur boxer through Boxing Ontario. We finish the session with plyometric and core work, push-ups, planks and stretching.

Aside from boxing classes, Clancy’s also hosts charity events such as the Agency Wars. It’s a team-building competition where they train 28 hopefuls for 12 weeks to become licensed amateur boxers who then go “toe to toe” against their media and ad agency colleagues in a charity boxing event. 

This year will be the sixth annual event and the boxers have already raised over $40,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto. It’s the biggest amateur boxing event in the city with an expected attendance of 1,000 people. 

Ejem’s other pet project is Girls Just Wanna Box (GJWB), which she launched in 2007. 

This is a lifestyle and fitness brand aimed at promoting and supporting women who want to box for “fun” (simply learn the “sweet science” of boxing) or for “real” (get support for amateur and professional boxing careers). It’s for women who want to get fit, feel strong and be healthy.   

After our workout and as we’re boxing in the ring (with Bujold wearing hand pads), Ejem yells out “Protect the pretty” at me from the ropes — a term they use in GJWB for keeping the jabs away from your face. You learn quickly to always keep one fist by your chin. 

This is an awesome workout, and I have a new appreciation for Bujold and her sport. I look forward to cheering her on next year at the Rio Summer Olympics.

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Monika Schnarre is a model, actor, entrepreneur and television personality. She has appeared in over 50 television shows and films and on over 100 magazine covers.

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