A pair of Salmon Arm boxers are setting out to square off with some of the most fighting-fit talent in Canada at the 2018 Super Channel Boxing Nationals in Edmonton, AB March 27 – April 2. More than just a shot at the title, a good placement at nationals could pave the way for their boxing careers.
Dominic Barbosa, provincial silver medalist and national title holder in his weight class, and Jordyn Konrad, who claimed gold at provincials, will be joined by coach Peggy Maerz of Bulldogs Boxing as part of Team B.C. at the national championships.
They’ll have to keep their gloves up and their minds clear, focused on the fights ahead. This seems to be nothing new to 17-year-old Dominic Barbosa, who finds it best to let unwanted distractions fall away before a fight.
“When we go to touch gloves, I’m not thinking of anything,” Barbosa says. “I’m just trying to stay calm, stay humble, let everything progress over time. Don’t be going in there looking for one specific thing, just be ready for whatever comes.”
Barbosa initially took up boxing as a way to increase his fitness for hockey. However, after his first organized fight he realized it was something he wanted to embrace.
“The moment I knew I was hooked was after my first fight,” he says, “I stopped the guy in the second round, right after that I was like ‘I want to fight more, I just want to keep doing this’.”
Peggy Maerz, head coach at Bulldogs Boxing gym in Salmon Arm, has been a part of Barbosa’s boxing journey since the beginning.
“I’ve been training Dom since he was nine years old. He was a cute little round-faced chubby kid who was coming to box and wanted to get in shape. He fell in love with the sport after he got in the ring, and that was the end of that,” Maerz says.
Above all, she has been continually impressed by his persistence.
“He just stuck to it and he absorbs information, works hard, he does everything I ask,” she says. “He never misses a run.”
Provincial gold medalist Jordyn Konrad says overcoming the nerves before her first national competition may be the most challenging part of the experience.
“It’s definitely exciting, definitely nerve-wracking too because I think there’s so much depth out east that I don’t even know about, the athletes are going to be, I believe, crazy good and technical, they’ve grown up in the sport. But I’m super excited to kind of step into that next level of competing with boxing,” she says.
Like Barbosa, Konrad first took up boxing as a way to cross-train for another sport; in her case, swimming.
“I swam at Simon Fraser University for my varsity career. Swimming was a huge part of my life and my identity, so I was just like ‘well, what’s next’,” she says. “I loved boxing, I loved the workouts, but I also wanted to try competing in boxing and then it just blossomed from there.”
However, unlike Barbosa, it wasn’t a single moment or flash of inspiration that pushed her to stick with the sport.
“It’s weird because I never thought I would want to get in the ring and get punched in the face,” Konrad says with a laugh. “I think the way Peggy coached me, her vibe made me want to do it. Through sparring I found I love how technical it is, there is so much learning. Getting all those details and seeing how you could get better and better just drove me to continue and push through competing.”
Though relatively new to the sport, Konrad has already shown she can compete among the best with her win at provincials. She believes her strong points as a boxer revolve around aggression and taking advantage of every opening.
“I believe I am the aggressor of boxing, I like to move forward and press the match,” Konrad says. “Tenacious, that’s what Peggy would say. I like to just give it my all.”
Coach Maerz says Konrad is spot-on in identifying her boxing strengths and feels the one thing that may be a struggle for her is overcoming the experience gap between her and the competition.
“Jordyn has a no-stop swing, once she goes in she is just… the polite word would be persistent.” Maerz says of Konrad’s boxing style. “She just goes in for the attack, she’s very explosive and doesn’t stop.”
Barbosa agrees with Konrad that training with Maerz has been an extremely positive experience and says she provides him with inspiration to push himself.
“I remember first walking into the gym, seeing Peggy working out and sparring, training for her fights. And I remember feeling like, man, I want to do that, I want to do everything you’re doing right now,” Barbosa says. “She’s the best coach I could ever ask for, she’s like a mom to me in a lot of ways.”
Of the upcoming trip to the national championships, Maerz says she is thrilled to be a part of it. This will be her first year as a coach with Team B.C., though she has competed as part of the team in the past.
“I feel like mama bear, I feel like we’re going as a family,” she says. “It’s Jordyn’s first time at nationals, its my first time out as a coach, and they’re grateful to have me there because not having your coach is a little unsettling. So its going to be exciting, its going to be fun for us.”