Fledgling fighters answer the bell

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Adam Hawboldt
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Prince Albert female boxers get competitive feet wet at Alberta tournament

For Tashawna Belhumeur, boxing runs in the family.

Growing up, her father Victor - a former welterweight pugilist - would take his daughter to watch his fights.


For Tashawna Belhumeur, boxing runs in the family.

Growing up, her father Victor - a former welterweight pugilist - would take his daughter to watch his fights.

Through these outings, a young Tashawna not only got to spend time with her dad, but also developed a keen awareness of boxing.

"Yeah, I used to watch him box all the time," said the diminutive teenager. "That's how I first got interested (in it.)"

Her interest soon grew, and when Tawshana was 12 she decided it was time to join the Prince Albert Boxing Club.

That was a year ago.

For the past 12 months or so, the 13-year-old has been training hard and waiting for a chance to participate in her first fight.

That chance came last weekend at the Silver Gloves tournament in Bonnyville, Alta.

"I was really anxious at first - nervous," said Tashawna. "But as soon as the fight started, everything just came into focus."

With pre-fight jitters abated and fighting temperature up, she won her first bout of the tournament before being edged in the final.

"She came within a whisker of winning gold," said her coach Braddock Koch. "Both girls she fought were more way more experienced and she did awesome.

"I was really proud of her."

Leier gets feet wet too

Unlike Belhumeur, Melissa Leier wasn't drawn to boxing from the get-go.

"Growing up, I think I had tried every sport except for boxing," said the 25-year-old. "And after this summer, I wanted to get in shape, so I joined (the Prince Albert Boxing Club) for conditioning."

Soon, however, Leier wanted to do more than just train.

"It was good," she said, "but I decided I wanted to take it to the next level and start competing."

So, like Belhumeur, Leier stepped into the ring for the first time last weekend to compete in the Silver Gloves.

However, the odds were stacked against her in the early going.

Because there was no one to fight in her weight class, Leier was forced to jump to the 60-kilogram division just to box.

On top of that, she was matched against an opponent with far more experience.

"The girl she fought trains in the same camp as (WBA super-featherweight champion) Jelena Mrdjenovich," said Koch. "She has six or seven fights under her belt. That girl was awesome. She was throwing 120 punches a round ... I've never seen a female boxer in that kind of shape before."

Even against such odds, Leier held her own for a bit. But when her opponent turned up the heat, it proved to be too much for the rookie from Prince Albert.

"I think I did OK," she said. "But I was in a heavier weight class and she had more experience. It was an experience I never had before.

"It was intense, but it was good."

ahawboldt@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Alberta, Bonnyville

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