SPORTS FEATURE: Ring dreams a family affair

Single mom eyes Pan-Am Games berth, national amateur boxing crown

Alexandra Strickland poses in the ring at Olson's Gym in Colwood. The single mother trains six days a week

Alexandra Strickland is ready to rumble.

The gymnast-turned-boxer punched her way to a silver medal at the 2015 Elite National Championships, held last month in Toronto, joining Olson’s Gym training partner Jacob Varga on the podium at the Boxing Canada tournament. Strickland said the medal is great, but the long-term goal is dedicated to her daughter.

“If I could make it to the Olympics it would mean the world to me, (and my daughter Ayva),” the Langford resident said. “I have missed so much time with my daughter and time in the sport is taking time from her …  It gets hard sometimes. It’s emotional.”

The 23-year-old single mother holds down two jobs, busing tables at the Loghouse Pub and working in the warehouse at Liquor Planet. That’s on top of training in the ring six days a week and caring for her three-year-old daughter, who is in preschool.

“I’m never sitting down from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed,” she said. “I’m always trying to take care of my daughter, go to training, put her to bed, wake up, get her ready for school. It’s crazy.”

Strickland traded in her tights for a pair of boxing shorts when she started hitting the bags for fitness. When she dislocated a knee, the injury kept her at home, where time in front of the TV hooked her on boxing.

She sees the sport as still being very much misunderstood by the public.

“You can’t just take anybody off the street and go into the ring. They are not going to win,” she said.

“It is definitely not a (reckless sport). You have to be smart and always have to think.”

Coach Nathan Olson has overseen Strickland’s development in the sport since she moved to the West Shore from Ontario, grooming her as a boxer first hand. She has all the tools for a bright future in the sweet science, he said.

“If she continues with her boxing career I see her definitely on the national team. With more experience, more fights (she has) a good shot at winning nationals next year,” Olson said. “It comes down to what she wants.”

He pointed to Strickland’s punching power and movement as her best weapons, tools he said have come naturally to her, despite only one year of serious training in what can be an unforgiving sport.

“She was a gymnast, so she is a naturally gifted, athletic person, (who) cares about her body and cares about what she wants to do. It comes down to the mental game, it’s all upstairs now. (She has) the tools, it’s just believing in it.”

With a young child to support and a laundry list of duties every day, Strickland isn’t taking the easy route as she vies for a spot at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games in July and another shot at the national title next year. She said she’s focused and willing to leave her blood, sweat and tears where they belong – in the ring.

“The hunger is crazy, not just for me, but for my daughter too. It would mean so much (to my daughter) to see me make it,” she said.

“She knows what I am doing; she is old enough to know what I am doing and know what I am going for. I would be proud if I made it and she would be happy too.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com