Kim Clavel, a modern-day Florence Nightingale with boxing gloves, emerged victorious with her undefeated record intact, from a tough eight-round scrap against Natalie Gonzalez, Kim’s first fight south of the Canadian border, which was featured on last evening’s Top Rank Boxing show on ESPN.
We last saw the professional prizefighter and healthcare worker from Ahuntsic, a northern district of Montreal, on ESPN exactly one month ago when Clavel was the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award for Service. The ESPY ceremony looked a little different this year, of course. Ordinarily, Kim would have been brought onstage by Halle Berry during a gala event instead of the Oscar winner having to deliver her introduction remotely, and Clavel would have been wearing an evening gown rather than gym clothes. Undoubtedly, Kim would have preferred to give her beloved grandmother a big hug in person but seemed happy enough to be able to see her on a computer screen, the family matriarch sending a congratulatory video message before Clavel was presented with the trophy in her dining room.
The manner in which she was attired while receiving her award is totally irrelevant, but it is of specific significance that Kim Clavel was honored for what she has done not while outfitted in boxing gear but in nurse’s scrubs, although she is equally comfortable and more than capable wearing either.
Last summer, Kim had taken a year-long sabbatical from her nursing career at Lanaudière Regional Hospital Centre in Joliette, where she had worked for six years in the maternity ward, to focus solely on boxing. She fought and won five times in 2019, improving to 11-0 and claiming the vacant NABF light-flyweight title in December with a perfect ten-round shutout of Esmeralda Gaona Sagahon. Making this victory even sweeter, she was subsequently offered a promotional deal with Yvon Michele—who also represents Adonis Stevenson, David Lemieux, Jean Pascal, and Juan Arango, to name a few—who arranged for Kim to defend her title in the main event on a March 21 card at the Montreal Casino, precisely when the coronavirus turned the world, and Clavel’s world, upside down.
The day after her bout was to have happened, she temporarily packed up her gloves and permanently did away with the morose mood that she allowed herself to wallow in after the cancelation of the title fight and reported for duty on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19. Taking shifts wherever and whenever she was needed, Clavel rotated between six different long-term care facilities which mostly look after the elderly, who are not only most vulnerable to the virus but isolated from their loved ones as a precautionary measure because of that very fact. This is where Kim comes in, making good use of her empathy as a natural complement to the knowledge gained from her nursing degree in order to provide her often frightened and confused patients with emotional uplift in addition to medical treatment.
Clavel had her hands full in last night’s return to the ring thanks to Natalie Gonzalez from New Rochelle, New York who had briefly fought under the banner of Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Promotions before it quickly folded amid rumors of financial malfeasance.
On paper, not to mention standing next to one another, the two light-flyweights measured up fairly evenly. Both are petite 29-year-old powder kegs, Gonzalez standing a mere five-foot-three which is still two inches taller than Clavel, with Natalie having a reach advantage of just a half-inch. Each fighter arrived in Las Vegas boasting undefeated professional records, Gonzalez was 6-0 (1 KO) and Clavel 11-0 (2 KOs) at the opening bell last night, and they had both earned impressive laurels as amateurs. Natalie Gonzalez twice came out on top at the NYBT championships, Metropolitan Championship tournament, and Golden Gloves, while Kim Clavel is a two-time Canadian Amateur Champion and the 2017 American Boxing Continental Champion.
The most significant difference seemed to be the ring rust Gonzalez had accumulated. She had just two fights in 2019, with the last occurring a week before Halloween, and hadn’t been in the ring for a little over a year prior to that. Despite making her debut in 2016, Natalie had only half a dozen bouts on her resume prior to yesterday. The lengthy gaps of inactivity are not the product of a poor work ethic, but due to her having taken time off to give birth to two children.
Clavel also has the quicker hands and exhibited lateral movement that was lacking in her opponent, Gonzalez content to sit in the pocket and trade blows from one stand-still position which did not work to her advantage. After hanging tough for most of the fight, the rugged Gonzalez showed signs of gassing out in the later rounds, breathing through an open mouth and growing visibly arm weary from the punches she was throwing, most of which were missing but you only had to give Clavel’s face a rudimentary once-over at the bout’s conclusion to see that the few dozen that got through inflicted some damage.
However, Kim ultimately and decisively outhustled the New Rochelle native by delivering almost two hundred more punches and connecting on twice as many as Gonzalez landed, and then some. The judges were all in agreement with their shared 80-72 verdict, ruling in favor of Clavel who swept every round on the scorecards.
The fact that boxing, a sport noteworthy to many for its violence and corruption and hard-luck tales, can give us a feel-good story like Kim Clavel’s when they are, generally speaking, in such short supply and so desperately needed these days, is especially satisfying. Whether she is wearing slippers and a surgical smock or laced-up boots and boxing trunks, it’s nice to know that Clavel is out there fighting the good fight.
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