Jason Furlano: Currently an account director with Yahoo Canada. Formerly an account director at Brightroll. Thirty-something. Athletic guy, but not a boxer.
And yet, in twelve short weeks, that’s exactly what Jason became.
Along with twenty-seven others, Jason trained to become a licensed amateur boxer in order to fight in Agency Wars, an event that takes people from the advertising and media world and puts them in a boxing tournament, all to support Ronald McDonald House and the National Advertising Benevolent Society of Toronto.
Training with Canadian National Boxing Champion Mandy Bujold, Jason underwent twelve weeks of rigorous training and a strict diet regimen. But it all paid off: he won his fight. We spoke to Jason about taking up boxing, training in ones thirties, and the amazing Mandy Bujold.
Is boxing a sport you normally follow?
“Not generally, no. Like any other sports fan, I take interest in the big fights and news around the stars of the sport but until September of this year, I really had not paid attention to the sport itself. It’s something, after three months of intense training and learning from Mandy, that I will now be a lot more interested in moving forward. I’ll have a close eye on Mandy during her “Road to Rio” and will be the guy screaming at his TV as she goes for gold.”
You’re over 30—young by most standards, but not by the gruelling standards of boxing. Did your age factor into the decision to box? Into how you went about training?
“Ha ha, seriously a funny question because I always thought of myself as a young(ish) guy until I showed up for the initial try-outs. I was battling with a lot of mid-20 guys throughout the process and doing what I could to stay competitive with them. It really did help push me, as one of the “old guys” I tried to use it as motivation—I had to work harder than I did a decade ago, a lot harder but it was my competitive side that allowed me to spar, race, and push myself against the younger guys. It worked because by the end of Agency Wars, my weight and fitness were back to levels I hadn’t known or seen since I left for University. It wasn’t until two days after my fight that I actually started to feel 32 again.”
What did your training regime look like?
“It was intense, seriously intense. I worked out with my team at Clancy’s Boxing Academy four nights during the week and every Saturday morning. In addition to that, I worked with my brother and two close friends every Sunday for three hours up in Barrie. Those were the scheduled sessions and didn’t include the runs or swims in the morning which ended up keeping my in the gym six days a week, most days, twice a day. It became a job with the end game being a six minute fight. I’ve never trained for something like this in my life. All that training really paid off though, a solid win and after the final bell rang, I actually thought to myself, I could go a few more rounds.”
Now that you’re done the fight, how much of that training is going to stick with your regular gym routine?
“The fitness and conditioning training is going to be something I continue to use. I’ve never been in this good of shape and with my wedding coming up in 2016, I’d like to stay the course. It will likely move to five days a week in the gym . . . none of which I will be punched in the face during. Fighting and fighters are something that I have a new found and everlasting respect for, it’s just not me.”
What did your nutritional regimen look like?
“The nutritional regimen was by far, the most challenging part of the three months. Not a single cheat. Not a drop of booze. Nothing. I work at Yahoo Canada as an Account Director. The advertising business in general is a very social industry and something that takes me out to meet with clients a lot, so having to curb that and stick to salads and the diet that we were provided with was tough. As the process went though and I started to see results, I noticed people asking me about my diet and hoping that I would share my meal plans with them. The team at Yahoo Canada was incredibly supportive of me through this process, and it was nice to see people taking an active interest because it meant I was making a lot of positive changes. It was a ton of home cooked meals, mostly chicken, broccoli, a salad and either a sweet potato or some brown rice. Variety is the spice of life but for those three months, I committed to those things and didn’t look back. Lucky for me, I had an insanely helpful fiancée who supported me and helped with cooking and shopping during the whole process.”
What advice would you give to someone in your position twelve weeks ago—never boxed before, just about to start training?
“Commit and don’t be afraid to give yourself the opportunity to try something new. I was an old dog and this was a very new trick but something that didn’t just change me for my time while training, it changed me moving forward. If you aren’t willing to commit to yourself, maybe take up something with a less likely chance of being punched in the face, like knitting.”
How intimidating is Mandy Bujold in person?
“Mandy is absolutely tiny, let me preface by saying that. She’s essentially the size I was in the eighth grade . . . but when she is taking you through pad work or demonstrating something, your jaw drops. She is the absolute epitome of an elite athlete but so humble. She was always available for questions, easily approachable and just such a warm and kind person. She was tough when I needed her to be but a phenomenal coach and person I will always have ties to . . . would I volunteer to be on the other side of the ring against her, absolutely not.”
Why is Ronald McDonald house important to you?
“It’s always been something near and dear to me. I’ve volunteered and donated to RMHC a lot in the past 3 years because it impacts kids and families in need and I can’t think of a more worthy cause than that. When you get there you realize how much it costs and how many people it actually takes to run the house and it’s mind-blowing. I’ve been lucky enough to not have anyone personally need to spend time there but that doesn’t mean it’s not very important to me. It’s an eye opening experience to spend some time in the house here in Toronto and see what kind of a difference you can make, if you can spend some time there, I would highly recommend it to anyone.”
Of boxing, Justin Trudeau said “I’m going tell you, there is no experience like stepping into this ring and measuring yourself. All the—your name, your fortune, your intelligence, your beauty—none of that f*****g matters.” How true was that for you?
“He’s the PM now, who am I to argue with that statement? Every word of that statement is true, it doesn’t matter who you are or anything you think you are outside of that ring, it really doesn’t mean anything once you step in. It’s the truest, simplest and most beautiful form of true athleticism and testament to a man’s will and spirit. You’re the only person in that ring, no teammates, no time-outs, nothing and only the work you’ve put in to get to that point can help you. I knew the Yahoo Canada team was behind me, though—they came out in full force for the event itself to cheer me on, and Yahoo sponsored Agency Wars this year.”