Ottawa

Boxer aims for 1st heavyweight title in her 5th pro bout

Claire Hafner's relatively new professional boxing career is about to take a dramatic turn as she prepares for a title bout against veteran U.S. opponent Carlette Ewell.

'Anyone who's bullied you or spoken badly of you has to reckon with you on that day,' Claire Hafner says

Ottawa boxer Claire Hafner says it's an especially tough sport for women, but she can't live without it. (Jonathan Jobin/Radio-Canada)

When Claire Hafner isn't working, she's running. When she isn't running, she's singing opera. And when she isn't doing any of these things, she's boxing. Professionally.

At 41 years old, Hafner is Ottawa's only professional female boxer, and she's busy preparing for a title bout against seasoned U.S. opponent Carlette Ewell, winner of five professional titles.

"[Ewell] has a great boxing history. That's one incredible accomplishment. And then the fact that there's a belt on top of it is just gravy," Hafner said in a recent interview.

"Unfortunately the heavyweight division for women is not heavily populated, so we don't get a lot of fights to build our records."

Claire Hafner trains for her heavyweight title match. (Jonathan Jobin/Radio-Canada)

3 wins, 1 loss

And so, with a record of three wins and one loss, Hafner will get her first title shot in North Carolina in March. 

"I just beat an undefeated woman in North Dakota and that kind of raised me up in the view of the promoters and the matchmakers, and so they see me as someone to bring in and put on a show," she said.

I don't think I would have survived boxing had I started in my teens or 20s. There's just too much trying to push you down.- Claire Hafner

This will also be Hafner's first eight-round fight, so she's mindful of conditioning.

"I'm just making sure that my cardio is really on point. I'm being careful not to overtrain because if you overtrain for these bigger, harder fights, it can be really detrimental," she said.

"You can't really learn to box or learn anything new at this point, so it's knowing your opponent really well and working on those things that will give you the advantage."

Hafner's cardio is so good, what with her operatic pipes and marathon running, she said she has to guard against holding back too much, and trust she'll have more than enough gas in the tank over the course of the fight. 

Trainer Geoffrey Kasonde, who works with Hafner in Ottawa, believes she'll win.

"She's really talented and works really hard. She's strong, stronger than she thinks," he said.

Obstacles out of the ring 

The world of professional boxing isn't easy, but it's especially hard on women, Hafner said.

"The boxing part is easy. Getting in the ring there are rules, there's a certain amount of punches you can throw. That's the easy part," she said.

"It's everything along [the way] ... fighting the fact that you're a woman dealing with all the crap, finding a gym that's going to accept you. I don't think I would have survived boxing had I started in my teens or 20s. There's just too much trying to push you down. But if there are women who are going on that path no matter or doing what they want then yeah … I'd love to be an example for them."

Despite the barriers, it's a sport she said she can't live without. 

"Everything makes sense in the ring … Anyone who's bullied you or spoken badly of you has to reckon with you on that day and it's a really great opportunity to just show what women athletes and older women and heavyweight women are capable of."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jonathan Jobin