Boxer Leduc led unique life

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Years ago, long before he captured a silver medal for Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Mark Leduc's mother came all the way from England to visit him at Collins Bay Penitentiary.

The visit was cut off after only 10 minutes because an inmate had been stabbed.

Tragically, she'll be making the trip from England again. But this time to say goodbye to her son, who died on Wednesday night at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Mark Leduc was 47. According to his brother-in-law, Mark Johnson, Leduc was found last Sunday morning collapsed inside a sauna, was rushed to hospital and revived, but died in hospital of organ failure.

It has been a bad few months for Canadian boxing.

Mike Post, who had put together a 17-1-1 record as a professional super-lightweight, was found dead in his Oakville gym last December, age 28, of causes unknown.

Arturo Gatti, who also was a member of Canada's amateur team in the early 1990's, was murdered in his hotel room in Mexico earlier this month. And now Leduc.

Leduc's death is shocking and all too premature. But one thing is certain: The Toronto native lived an incredible life and certainly was a unique individual.

Leduc grew up in a working-class part of east Toronto and became involved in drugs as a teenager.

When he was a young man, he served 18 months in Collins Bay for armed robbery and while there learned how to box. He also found religion inside and vowed to turn his life around, which he did, making the national team and winning a stunning silver medal for Canada at the Barcelona Games, beating future professional world champion Leonard Dorin in the semi-final.

He later turned pro and captured the Canadian light-welterweight title.

After that, Leduc became a set-builder in the film industry and volunteered with the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.

Not that it matters, but Leduc was probably the only homosexual ex-con who won a boxing medal at an Olympic Games.

But to his friends on the national team, he was more than just a symbol.

He was good friend and all-around nice guy, as corny as that may sound, and legendary for his toughness, even in a brutal sport like boxing.

"I admired him because he was the oldest guy on the national team, but also the hardest worker," former Commonwealth lightweight champion Billy Irwin, who was Leduc's roommate on the Canadian team, said.

As for his toughness, Irwin said Leduc saved his skin a couple times, once during the 1989 world amateur championships in Moscow when Irwin was jumped in the hotel elevator.

"The elevator door opened and a couple of big Russians came in and tried to roll me," Irwin said. "Mark, who was a lot smaller than these guys, grabbed them and threw them out of the elevator. One then squared off and Mark nailed him, and they took off. Mark wouldn't back down from anyone."

Leduc had been a fixture on the national team for a while before the Barcelona Olympics, but according to Irwin and Mike Strange, another teammate on the national squad, no one would have thought that Leduc was capable of winning a medal.

IN HANDCUFFS

No one, except Leduc. According to his coach, Colin MacPhail, Leduc turned to him on the flight to Barcelona and announced that he was going to win a medal.

When he was a young man, Mark Leduc went sent to Kingston in handcuffs.

After winning the silver in Barcelona, he returned to Kingston. But this time he was given a parade down Princess St. and awarded the key to the city from the mayor.

That's how his friends want to remember Mark Leduc.


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