Trudeau, Brazeau spar ahead of charity bout
Fundraiser for cancer research heavy on scrappy buzz, partisan baggage
As fans of professional boxing know, all great bouts begin long before the fighters step into the ring, with furious rounds of trash-talking, odds-making and often a rancorous weigh-in ceremony.
In this respect, Saturday night's charity boxing match between Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau does not disappoint: The Montreal-Maniwaki match-up is a classic.
In the red corner, the well-coiffed, privileged son of the most liberal of Liberal prime ministers who took up boxing 20 years ago like his late father, returning to it "on and off" to keep in shape.
In the blue corner, the bandana-and-ponytailed blue-collar Tory Senator appointed by Stephen Harper to represent Canada's off-reserve aboriginal population, touting a background in martial arts and at least a figurative familiarity with the odd street brawl.
The shirtless promotional photos for the Fight for the Cure event, organized to raise funds for cancer research, show off both fighters' muscles and tattoos.
Local media speculation has favoured Brazeau's corner based on the black belt on his resumé and his bulging biceps.
Trudeau isn't daunted. "I'm a better boxer than him. We're not doing karate," he told CBC News' Julie Van Dusen on Parliament Hill Monday. "Boxing is muscles, yes. It's also heart and brainpower and strategy," he said, "and I think I can beat him on all three of those levels."
When asked by Van Dusen whether he meant to say he had a bigger brain than Brazeau, Trudeau said: "I think I'm smarter."
Bookies like Brazeau
Trudeau denied he's been affected by media speculation that has cast him as the underdog, appearing instead to be using it to his advantage.
"I can't lose," he told Ottawa Morning's Robyn Bresnahan on Tuesday. "Unless Pat gets a lucky shot and drops me in the first 30 seconds, I think people are going to be impressed that I was able to take it and give it for three rounds.
"And if, as I expect, I'm able to prevail it's going to be a huge contrast to everyone's expectations. The bookies have done me a favour," he insisted.
Brazeau turned down the invitation from CBC Radio to join Trudeau to promote the fight Tuesday. Although Brazeau has done other advance media, Trudeau said his adversary has bailed on other interview requests this week after bragging about all the attention he was receiving.
"I don't know whether the pressure's getting to him," Trudeau said. "He's built up expectations with both his talking and his arms that make everybody think he's going to have a cakewalk on Saturday night. And I can promise you he's not."
In an online promotional video for the fight, Brazeau says he doesn't think "Justin in the ring will be very much" although "Justin outside the ring is one that likes to make comments."
"In light of the recent comments, on behalf of all Canadians I will tattoo the Canadian flag back into his heart," Brazeau vows in the video.
"When I beat him on Saturday night it's going to be incredibly embarrassing for him," Trudeau told Ottawa Morning.
Late last week, followers of Brazeau's twitter feed were treated to strong comments from the senator about the upcoming fight and some of the more negative personal commentary that's been circulating in its wake.
Some of Brazeau's tweets have been fun and enthusiastic – "I feel like a kid at Christmas" he wrote last Sunday, after sharing that he had just picked his "intro" song. Earlier, he promised to "float like an Algonquin, sting like a Cree."
But last Friday, things got punchier.
"This Twitter is pretty cool. It gets the leftists riled up. Right-wingers don't comment because they're too busy working," Brazeau wrote in reply to some journalists' questions. In a subsequent tweet he said he hopes a critic puts "his $ where his mouth is and comes to Maniwaki."
"They should write smack about my personal life and call it BrazLeaks," he also tweeted, in reference to a recent controversy in which a Liberal staffer created a Twitter account to reveal secrets from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's divorce.
The @Vikileaks account was created to protest the online surveillance bill. Trudeau talked about it on his heavily followed Twitter account, first appearing to promote it, then condemning it.
Trudeau and Brazeau first engaged on Twitter in what Trudeau calls "a little bit of a run-in" during last year's election campaign. Saturday's bout is a chance to move the fight from their fingers to their fists.
"He's been filling the role of the heavy and the bad guy in the media over the past few months," Trudeau told Ottawa Morning.
"I'm not going to directly comment on Pat's poor judgment [in past tweets]," Trudeau added. "But I think when one's a public figure, one has the responsibility to be authentic, yes … but you also have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of respect in your exchanges whenever possible.
"I haven't always been perfect at it, and I'm the first to admit it," said Trudeau, who drew attention recently for swearing at the top of his lungs at Environment Minister Peter Kent in the House of Commons.
"Pat's swinging wildly in all directions even now on Twitter, which is what he's going to do on Saturday night," Trudeau said.
Bout on Trudeau's 'bucket list'
Brazeau apparently leaped at the chance to have a go at Trudeau, but the bout was actually Trudeau's idea.
"It was always something that was on my bucket list — to actually measure myself in a ring," Trudeau told Ottawa Morning.
Trudeau said his motivation was spurred when he turned 40: "I didn't think it was going to happen until I saw this Fight for the Cure opportunity."
The three rounds scheduled between the MP and the senator at an Ottawa hotel Saturday night are the headline on a ticket of other first-time amateur boxing matchups. Each boxer has some kind of prominent day job and something to prove.
The fundraising cause is personal for both men. Brazeau lost his mom to cancer. The late Pierre Trudeau had prostate cancer.
Both men have been working out and sparring at the same Ottawa boxing club with the same trainers to prepare for the event. Sources inside the club suggest neither parliamentarian should quit his day job. The weigh-in is set for Wednesday.
Despite the media's focus on the partisan political fight, Brazeau and Trudeau are not at the moment the top online fundraisers for the event. The undercard is pulling in more research dollars to date.
Tickets for the event are completely sold out.