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Meet Mark ‘The Baby Shark’ Maristela; persistence is key!

Fight To End Cancer #FTEC2023 Fighter, Mark Maristela [Photo Credit: Rebecca Freeman]

As a child who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines at the age of nine and as a boy who cared for his younger siblings while his parents worked, Mark Maristela spent his school years feeling like he was watching life unfold, from the outside.

Now, Mark is inside the ring.

Competing in the Fight To End Cancer, he’s approaching the boxing bout with wisdom gained from his younger years.

As an art director in downtown Toronto ad agency, it’s been a long time since Mark watched his classmates make the school sports teams with skills that he couldn’t access as a newcomer but that experience would, years later, drive him into the boxing gym.

“I had to focus on supporting my siblings when we immigrated here, so my time was very limited to do any extracurricular activities and throughout elementary school and high school, I would be the one taking care of my siblings so, I didn’t have time to do any sports like basketball or football,” Mark says.

I guess that ties in with the being ‘left out’ part, but when my siblings were old enough that they could take care of themselves, I could do my own thing,” he says.

“And that’s when, probably in grade 12, I’m trying to look for sports like basketball or, you know, any team sport, but it’s hard to find a sport to play in when you haven’t done it and you’re not connected with people in those sports, because it’s a team game, right?

So that turned my interest to boxing because boxing was that one opportunity to finally do it and not look for teammates. It’s just me.”

He always loved the idea of boxing, inspired as a kid by Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao, a fighter from the Philippines who succeeded on the world stage. To Mark, Manny was a little guy who had to fight to find his place and someone who exemplified national pride for his home country, a Filipino icon. Pacquiao went on to become an actor, musician and a senator in the Philippines.

Mark’s mother and grandmother did their best to steer him away from combat sports but eventually, as an adult living in the east-end of Toronto, he started training in boxing, inspired by a charity fight at his ad agency and after moving to Etobicoke in the summer of 2022, Mark joined the Kingsway Boxing Club.

He soon learned about the FTEC team and, as Mark describes it, became a “persistent” volunteer. When he got word that he made the team, he was ready to go all in with the training.

“The appeal for me in boxing, when I’m training and when I’m in the ring, is that feeling of competitiveness, obviously, but it’s also the drive for improvement.

Mark Training For Fight To End Cancer 2023. [Photo credit: Virgil Barrow]

“I always liked boxing was because, it’s a struggle. There’s a lot of struggling. And what I’ve learned throughout my life is that if you want to do something and you feel if you’re really driven to do something, you’ve got to struggle first. And I never do anything for my life if I know that I’m not going to struggle.”

~ Mark Maristela, FTEC2023 Fighter

“That also kind of ties in with other things in my life where it’s like, if it’s too easy, then that means you’re not working hard enough. If I do enough work and I see the improvement, I still want to work more.”

Inspiration to get in the ring for The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation comes from his grandmother in the Philippines, who had cancer, a family friend with cancer and, Mark’s girlfriend, who has recovered from cancer.

Photos of Mark with his girlfriend, grandma, other family members and friends.

She is involved in numerous fundraisers for cancer research and, with a singular enthusiasm, cheers him on after his training sessions, he says, ignoring his bumps and bruises for the greater good.

“Every time I come home to her, I’ll say, ‘I got beat up,’ and she’ll say, ‘Good job!’ I’ll say, “Ya, but my nose is bleeding,’ and she’ll say, ‘It’s okaaay!’”

And that, he says, laughing, is a good struggle.

The FTEC2023 Fight Team  stands united to Fight The Fight That Affects Us All! With the goal of reaching $3 million in 2023, 100% of all KO Cancer Bootcamp proceeds go to research at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.


Public Relations Team, Fight To End Cancer

Donations to our Fight Team can be made at:
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Help the #FTEC2023 Fight Team reach their goal of $3 million dollars before Fight Night! Use the link below to get to know the individual team members better and support them in their Fight To End Cancer! Defeat Is NOT An Option

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About The Fight To End Cancer

The Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) is a year-round initiative carried out by ambassadors, sponsors and volunteers worldwide.  Over $2,000,000 has been donated to date, since our inaugural year, in 2012.  Funds raised by FTEC are donated directly to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.  Each year we celebrate the incredible hard work and dedication of our FTEC family with a black-tie charity boxing gala.  This gala showcases ten men and women who represent our Official Fight Team.  Our goal is to raise funds for cancer research year-round with the support of the local community and business owners.  Let’s make a difference now in the fight to end cancer, for a long and successful future for everyone.  This is an event like no other and has quickly become one of the most anticipated events in Toronto.

About The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation at University Health Network raises funds for breakthrough research, exemplary teaching and compassionate care at Princess Margaret Hospital and its research arm, the Ontario Cancer Institute, which now includes The Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute and The Campbell Family Breast Cancer Research Institute. More information about the Foundation can be found at