By Charlie Pinkerton
Lucas Craston is quick to respond to questions about himself, boxing and the Canada Winter Games even when – admittedly – he isn’t quite sure about the answers.
Leaning back in his chair in the office at Beaver Boxing Club, the 16-year-old smiles with the type of confidence you would expect from someone’s who’s beaten just about everyone who he’s able to fight in the province.
Craston is days away from putting the wraps on for Team Ontario and he’s about to get in some last-minute training at Ottawa’s elite, hole-in-the-wall boxing club.
Being from Nepean, Craston hasn’t always trained at Beaver. He and his two older brothers, Max and Owen, first picked up fighting at the now-closed Access MMA, when the owner invited them in for a class. The Craston brothers trained at the club that was just steps from their home for two years, though the youngest never had a fight while they practised there. They made the switch to Beaver about three years ago. Now, Craston makes either the 25-minute drive or 90-minute bus ride to the “badass” gym in Little Italy most days of the week.
“You walk down those stairs and you’ve got the low ceilings – that right there is pretty cool. It’s like in an old movie,” Craston says about the club where he spends much of his time.
“It’s school, my house and here,” he says.
Craston recalls that before his first ever match that he didn’t even know that fighters had to be licensed by Boxing Ontario, or that they needed to pass a medical test.
“I had no idea. You needed that to spar and everything; I didn’t know that, so I finally got that done,” he says.
That led to his debut at the 2016 Ontario Summer Games, which he left as provincial champion.
In what’s been a trend during his rise in the Ontario boxing ranks, he said he had no clue about its significance.
“There was a bunch of things I didn’t know,” he said.
He continued a tear through his first 20 fights, which included picking up top finishes as the runner up as a junior at the 2018 Canadian Championships and as Ontario’s champion again at the 2018 Golden Gloves provincial championships.
Craston’s coaches, Beaver youth coach John Edwards, and club president and head coach Jill Perry, are who he says drive and steady him. But at the Games in Red Deer Alta., he’ll have to make do as the only representative from his club.
Edwards isn’t worried. He said he’s had positive discussions with the Team Ontario coaches, so he’s not worried about Craston going to the Games alone.
Edwards said coaching Craston is “always a challenge,” since he’s never shy to question the reasoning behind training techniques that he doesn’t see the reason in.
“He’s not a ‘yes man’, which makes it challenging, because he has his own opinions, but I think that’s beneficial for me as well,” Edwards says.
The coach says Craston’s unashamed questioning ensures that what they’re always training with a purpose.
Edwards describes Craston as a “methodical fighter” who likes to “think, move a lot and be elusive,” and also praised his high overall fitness level.
Craston will be one of the youngest fighters at the Games and says that while he’s obviously going for gold that he won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t take home 1st place in the men’s 60-kilogram division.
“No one wants to go in and lose. You’re fighting people. It’s pretty intense. Even if I lose, it’s a big tournament, so I’m going to learn something and get experience travelling with new people,” Craston said.
And while the Grade 11 St. Pius X High School student says he knows it’s not realistic to expect to become a professional fighter that he thinks another victory could open a door to what’s next, whatever that may be.
“I’m sure that if I win that the opportunities are going to keep coming,” Craston said.