Boxing fundraiser hits home for Ottawa lawyer

Kelly Santini
Ottawa lawyer Lisa Langevin, a partner at Kelly Santini LLP, is putting up her dukes for charity this fall. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Ottawa lawyer Lisa Langevin had the time of her life at last year’s Fight for the Cure charity boxing gala. Still, she couldn’t help but think she’d rather be inside the ring – getting physical – than watching outside the ropes as a spectator.

It just so happened that organizers of the benefit for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation were looking to add female white-collar boxers for 2018. Langevin, a law partner at Kelly Santini LLP, was promptly recruited and is now busy training for her big night, while also raising thousands of dollars for local cancer care.

Whether or not Langevin is the champ, she will at least hold the title of female fighting trailblazer, along with her competitor, Daphne Ballard.

The pair will be the first women to put up their dukes at the boxing benefit, which has raised nearly $370,000 over the past decade and is best-known for Justin Trudeau’s 2012 win against then-senator Patrick Brazeau.

Langevin has much to gain from participating besides ripped abs. Her biggest motivating factor remains her father, Yvon Langevin, who passed away in September 2009 following a long and difficult battle with esophageal cancer. He was 69.

“Even if I look like a fool, I don’t care; I will have gone out there, I’ll have done it,” Langevin, 42, says during an interview at her firm’s office in Place Bell on Elgin Street.  “If I get my face pounded, I don’t care; I will have raised money for cancer, I will have honoured my father, I will have done what I wanted to do.”

Langevin was born and raised in Ottawa, although her family roots lie a couple hours north in Maniwaki, Que. She earned her law degree at the University of Ottawa, articled at Kelly Santini and has been with the firm ever since, with the exception of a six-month stint in government. Her practice focuses on insurance defence litigation, bankruptcy and insolvency, commercial litigation and mediation.

Langevin and her lawyer husband Chris Moore are also parents to a combined five children, ages three, nine, 18, 23 and 24.

“It’s crazy,” she admits of her hectic home life. “I’ve learned to accept the chaos, because otherwise you’re going to lose your mind dealing with the stress of the job, the kids and the volunteer work.

“You have to accept that nothing’s going to be perfect.”

Learning how to box is proving to be a natural fit for Langevin, who already plays a variety of sports.

“I think it’s work-life balance for me,” she says of her attraction to an active lifestyle. “There’s nothing better than leaving a really stressful day at work and being able to go to the gym and being able to hit stuff.

“There’s nothing like getting a good sweat on and boosting your happy endorphins.”

Mental toughness

She and Ballard, who works for Langevin’s husband as his legal assistant, are longtime friends and members of the Ottawa Gaels Gaelic women’s football team. The sport, which originated in Ireland, combines the skills of soccer, rugby and basketball.

“Getting punched in the face isn’t something that’s natural to us, but it’s not like we haven’t been hit before,” Langevin points out.

The pair is currently learning basic boxing moves at the Final Round Boxing Gym in south Ottawa. Their one-night-a-week training regimen will increase to three nights and potentially to four as the event draws closer.

Their instructor is Scott Whitteker, the director of Fight for the Cure. Accomplished fighter Erica Adjei is assisting with the women’s sparring, since white-collar boxers don’t take on their competitors until fight night.

“They’re definitely how I would hope they would be as our first two females,” says Whitteker of the pair’s mental toughness and strong work ethic.

Whitteker is quick to acknowledge that the addition of women to Fight for the Cure was overdue.

“I’m a little embarrassed that it took this long,” he concedes. “I think we should’ve had this much, much sooner.”

He credits such prominent mixed martial artists as Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey for the rising popularity of combat sports among women.

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation also knew it was time for women to get involved, particularly since a similar charity boxing event in Toronto already includes both genders.

“I think we always thought it would be a nice idea but didn’t really know where to look for women who would have that kind of interest,” says Linda Eagen, president and CEO of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. “As the event grew and became more popular, and more people got to know about it, some women started asking and we started asking a few women.

“I’m certainly hoping there will be even more women in the years ahead.”

Fight for the Cure returns to the Hilton Lac Leamy on Oct. 13.