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'Always in my corner': Olympians pay tribute to beloved boxing coach

On Saturday in Toronto, Olympic boxers past and present gathered at the mom-and-pop boxing club built by Adrian Teodorescu to pay their respects to the beloved coach who died late last month.

Lennox Lewis, Mandy Bujold among mourners at Adrian Teodorescu's memorial service

Adrian Teodorescu trained Lennox Lewis, right, to Olympic gold in 1988 and was invited to be part of his team once again during Lewis' preparation to fight Evander Holyfield, left, in 1998. (Getty Images)

The son of legendary boxing coach Adrian Teodorescu stepped into the ring at the family's famous boxing club in Toronto on Saturday to strike the bell for his father one last time.

A moment of silence followed the stirring 10 count, and the sense of loss was palpable among those in attendance.

Hundreds of people — mostly men, mostly fighters — piled into the cramped gym to pay tribute to the man whose impact as a coach on the sport of boxing in Canada is said to be second to none.

Teodorescu, who lost his fight with cancer on November 30 at the age of 73, was the man who coached Lennox Lewis to a gold medal at the 1988 Games in Seoul. He is said to have had a hand in every Olympic medal Canada has won in the sport since 1983, when he emigrated from Romania.

For the memorial service, a makeshift stage was created in the boxing ring at the mom-and-pop club he ran with his wife, Gina, and son Armand.

'Always in my corner'

Among those who pushed through the crowd and climbed through the ropes to say a few words about their former coach were Olympians Lewis, Mandy BujoldDomenic Filane, Egerton Marcus and Arthur Biyarslanov

"I moved to Toronto [four years ago] because I knew that if I could spend a bit more time with him and pick his brain that I would be able to take my boxing career to the next level," said Bujold, a two-time Pan Am Games champion who fought at the Rio Olympics.

Bujold recalled the many jokes Teodorescu would tell in his thick Romanian accent, as well as the passion and perfectionism that kept him up at night thinking of little things that could improve her as a fighter.

"When Adrian was in my corner, there was never a doubt in my mind that I could win the fight," she said.

In Teodorescu's final days, Bujold was a constant at the Toronto hospital where he ultimately succumbed to his illness.

"Adrian always told me I was his heart," the 29-year-old said tearfully. "Now I will carry him in my heart every time I step through those ropes. There will always be a place for him in my corner."

Filane, a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist and two-time Olympian, marvelled at Teodorescu's reach beyond boxing.

The fighter recounted a time at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 when famed Romanian-born U.S. gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi ran over to Teodorescu and gave him a big hug.

"I thought, 'Wow, he knows Karolyi,'" Filane said. "He didn't always get the respect he deserved here in Canada but he was well respected across the globe."

'We have to carry on his legacy'

In 1998, while Filane was getting ready for the Commonwealth Games, Teodorescu got a call from Lennox Lewis asking the coach to join his team once again as he prepared to fight Evander Holyfield. This meant Teodorescu wouldn't be able to accompany Filane on his trip to Malaysia.

"He said, 'Domenic, I'll make it up to you,'" Filane recalled.

A year later, Teodorescu invited Filane to a training camp with the Lewis team in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

"It was the greatest way for me to end my career," said the 10-time Canadian light flyweight champion. "I'm truly blessed."

Lewis stayed connected with Teodorescu throughout his professional career and even after his retirement in 2004.

"There's so much that Adrian has taught me, not just in boxing but in life," Lewis said. "He always said when you shake someone's hand you should look them in the eye. That's something I'm teaching my son now.

"There are so many people that he influenced, and we have to carry on his legacy."


'More than a trainer'

Marcus trained with Lewis under Teodorescu's leadership and won an Olympic silver medal in 1988.  

"Adrian was much more than a trainer, he was a father figure to me," Marcus said. "When my pops wasn't around, he was there. This gym is a family gym.

"I owe the silver medal and everything I accomplished to Adrian because he put a fire in me that nothing would have stopped."

Overcome with emotion at the outpouring of love for her husband, Gina Teodorescu expressed how proud she was that Armand would carry on his father's legacy as a coach, and reflected on her wealth of memories of Adrian.

"We were together 42 years," she said. "It will take another 42 to tell it all."

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