Wearing a bandana, wrists taped and looking lean and strong, Mary Spencer would have cut an intimidating figure if not for the warm smile she wore at Top Glove Boxing Academy on Thursday.

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star

Wearing a bandana, wrists taped and looking lean and strong, Mary Spencer would have cut an intimidating figure if not for the warm smile she wore at Top Glove Boxing Academy on Thursday.

And that's even if you didn't know about her exploits as one of Canada's best amateur boxers, including three world championships and a Pan American Games gold medal, along with an appearance at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

All those exploits may have mattered little to the youngsters who travelled from Whitefish Lake First Nation for Thursday's training session, but they hung on her every word, regardless.

"When I started boxing, I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't have some help," said Spencer, 27. "So any opportunity I have like this, I'm going to take it."

Spencer, who lives near Windsor, is aboriginal herself, and involved with Motivate Canada, a charitable organization that specializes in improving lives of young people through "civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, social inclusion and leadership among youth," according to its website.

One of Motivate Canada's programs, Gen7, encourages aboriginal youth to live active, healthy lifestyles.

"A group of girls from Whitefish First Nation said they'd be interested in boxing, so we have a couple of them here today," Spencer said. "So I came with them to work here at the club, because they can work out at their community centre, but it's not the same atmosphere as working out at a real boxing club."

She'll return once a month for the next year, to teach a group she hopes will grow from the two who attended on Thursday.

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