Erica Adjei strikes punching bags and watches herself spar in mirrors mounted to the walls of the Beaver Boxing Club to refine her techniques.
David Kawai, Centretown News
Erica Adjei holds her 2012 boxer of the year trophy, her second straight Ottawa Sports Award title as the city's best boxer.
She trains alongside new and experienced boxers, but isn’t like any other fighter in the club.
Adjei claimed a second straight Ottawa Sports Award as the city’s best boxer in 2012 on Jan. 30. Her coach says it’s just the first title she can win this year.
“I’m looking for Erica to be Canadian champion in 2013,” says three-time Ottawa Sports Award-winner Greg Gayle, who’s coached the 22-year-old for more than two years at Beaver Boxing.
“Erica can be as good as she wants to be. It’s all up to her and she works very hard in the gym,” he says. “She wants to, and definitely can, do a lot in boxing.”
Despite her loss at the Canadian championships in Membertou, N.S., last January, Ottawa Sports Awards board member Mike Scott says Adjei won the accolade as the city’s best boxer because of her potential to clinch a national title.
Adjei won a provincial championship in 2011 and compiled a 6-2 record in 2012 while competing in the 57-kilogram weight class.
A fighter with international experience in the 60-kilogram division handed Adjei her second loss of 2012 in November.
But fighting against stronger opponents is the only way she can get good enough to win a national championship, says Jill Perry, head coach at Beaver Boxing.
“These are the people she’s going to have to fight,” says Perry. “You might not win all these kinds of fights, but it’s how you learn the most and grow huge amounts as a boxer.”
The underdog doesn’t always lose, though.
Adjei has fewer than 30 fights under her belt, but travelled to Montreal in June and stood toe-to-toe against a Quebec-born boxer who has competed more than 75 times.
“The girl came in a little heavier than what was promised, so Erica was lighter as well as less experienced,” says Perry. “But Erica beat her soundly. It was a huge, huge upset.”
Perry says Adjei is the only boxer in the city who can compete above the provincial level.
But Adjei wouldn’t have had the chance to compete, let alone train, if it weren’t for a conversation she says she had with friends in high school.
“There was a bunch of guys interested in starting at Beaver Boxing and I said that we should all join together,” she says.
“They said ‘you can’t do it. You’re a girl. You’ll quit.’ Almost a month and a half later, I joined the gym and I’ve never seen them there.”
Adjei’s now been at Beaver Boxing for more than five years and says she trains four times a week and runs almost every day.
A diligent workout schedule will give her a boost when she steps into the ring at the 2013 Ontario Open Championships in Toronto in late-February, she says. In the spring, she’ll have another shot at her first national title.
While her jab is one of her best skills, Gayle says Adjei’s confidence and desire to succeed are more impressive.
That desire is something that shines through when she speaks.
“Anybody can be a champion. It’s about how much work you do in the gym and how much you’re willing to give,” she says. “If I work and train hard, why can’t I be the Canadian champ? Why not the world champ?”
Why not, indeed?