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North Vancouver boxer wins national championship

Johnathan Hannah will prepare to fight in Olympic trials in June
North Vancouver boxer Johnathan Hannah has him arm raised after beating Denis Nickenson in the 75-kilogram men's finals at the Elite National Championships in Brampton, Ont. last Sunday. | Boxing Canada / Facebook

Johnathan Hannah started with his toughest match of the tournament.

His first, quarter-final match at the 2023 Elite National Championships in Brampton, Ont. was against last year’s winner in the men’s 75-kilogram category, Dylan Martin.

Usually the matches are seeded, so top fighters get more favourable first match-ups. But that system was interrupted during the pandemic. The draw was reset for this tournament, explained Dave Brett, head coach at Griffins Boxing in North Vancouver.

“We got the national champion to start,” he said. “That was our big roadblock.”

But Hannah, a 22-year-old from North Vancouver, had the physical and mental fortitude to push through.

“First round was setting the pace and by the third round, we’re just hitting them at will,” Brett said. “It was awesome.”

After that, Hannah beat Kimani Crawford of Alberta in the semi-final. And in the final match, Hannah boxed 2019 National Champion Denis Nickenson of Quebec. The first round was close, Brett said, but Hannah took over in the second round with his power, and secured the match in the third.

“It’s probably the best feeling in sports I’ve ever had,” Brett said, adding that Hannah has been going through the training program at Griffins for the past decade. “It’s a huge achievement for a North Van born-and-raised kid.”

Now, more doors are opening for the young boxer. He was on the phone with Boxing Canada on Wednesday, talking about upcoming opportunities to fight in France and Finland. Normally, he would go on to the World Championships, but that tournament is a question mark at this point, as it faces boycotts from countries including the U.S.

Another goal on Hannah’s horizon is the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. But his current 75-kg weight class isn’t a part of the Games.

“Because he’s No. 1 at that weight class he has the opportunity to move up to 80 kilograms – 176 pounds, which is about 11 pounds heavier – and fight in June for the for the Olympic trials,” Brett said. “He’s beaten everybody at that spot already, so we’re really confident.”

While Hannah’s moments were some of the most exciting at the tournament for the North Vancouver gym, Griffins had other successes there as well. Nyousha Nakhjiri won silver in the 52-kg women’s category, and Dalis Gures won silver in the 57-kilogram men’s event.

Concurrent to the National Championship was the Brampton Cup, a larger tournament that anyone can enter – unlike the nationals which only accepts provincial champs. In the Cup, Shad Nasim won gold in 92-kg men’s; Frayar Mohammadi won gold in 52-kg men’s; Alex Werring picked up bronze in the 92-plus-kg men’s; and Diego Kunickey bronze in 86-kg men’s.