Simply stepping into the ring was the challenge

by Stacey Colwell

For Sara Maldonado, the biggest challenge to becoming a boxer was simply stepping in the ring.

"The idea of competing is the challenge itself," said the Heckmans Island resident who recently won her first amateur match.

"It is one thing to play a sport and to practice it, but to get into the ring is another story."

In addition, the thought of committing to boxing was too daunting while she was battling through anxiety and depression issues, but ultimately the sport even helped her overcome those.

"It's important to have a supportive group when you're going through something like that," said Maldonado, who trains at Dave's Multisports in Bridgewater.

"Heading towards a certain goal and training for it kind of reminds you that everyone has good days and bad ones, and it was important to know that people were going to be at the club every time because I was being held accountable."

In her first match on October 28 in Truro, the 28-year-old defeated Destiney Wysote in all three rounds by unanimous decision.

In the first round Maldonado dominated, landing straight punches and dancing easily around the ring. Round two proved more challenging, but she still prevailed, and in round three she was fighting on and off the ropes.

The match was briefly stopped over an injury that Wysote sustained, but the match ultimately continued.

"It went by super fast, but the waiting for it was eternal," said Maldonado.

"People have expectations about what its going to be like, but when you get up there in the ring everything just flies out the window and you just perform and try to make the best of it, and then its done."

Afterwards, she was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction.

"I was happy to have done it and to be standing next to another girl that was probably going through the same thing. I felt connected to the other people that had fought that night. Boxing takes a lot of courage, and that's important."

A press release from the club said Maldonado's friendly demeanour and quiet, contemplative training technique make her an inspiration.

"Sara is a competitor who works hard to get it right," said coach Dave Penney.

"She is dedicated in all aspects of her training and I believe she has developed into a superb boxer."

Originally from Ecuador, Maldonado moved to Nova Scotia for university over a decade ago, and then began boxing at Dave's Multisports a few years ago, helping add to its international flavour. The club includes members originally from Panama, Kenya, Japan, Denmark and Ukraine.

The club currently has 10 competitive fighters-in-training and another 10 who box for fitness.

Like Maldonado, two of those boxers recently won their amateur fighting debuts, including Candace Ellicott.

"[She] has a heart of gold and is a determined student," said Penney.

"Her drive and passion are admirable. We have been developing her defence techniques over the past few months and with this added to her punching power she is blossoming into an outstanding boxer. Candace trains hard even when she is not at her best.

"At the club we say 'When things get tough, Candace gets tougher.'"

Meanwhile, he said Christine Gaitan is also a highly motivated athlete.

"I have taken pride in watching her thrive as she has gained knowledge in the sport of boxing. Over the past two years Christine has developed fantastic hitting power in both hands and she can put together combinations or single punches that would put any opponent on the defensive."

All three women were scheduled to fight again this month.

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