Two years ago, Talia Birch hadn’t stepped into the boxing ring.

She decided to lace up her gloves as a way to stay in shape during the pandemic.

Currently, she has amassed a string of accolades, is undefeated in five fights, and is on her way to the Canadian Games on Prince Edward Island in February.

The 17-year-old said she wants to live out her boxing success as long as possible.

“I know it’s just the beginning,” she said Friday in an interview at Club de Boxe G1, her home boxing gym in Vaudreuil-d’Orion, just west of Montreal.

“But it looks pretty good now.”

Man in boxing ring.
Jamal Garner, Talia Birch’s coach, says they have a good connection. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

But her road to success wasn’t all fun. When she arrives at the gym for a training session with her coach, Jamal Garner, she’s all business: She laces up her boxing shoes, grabs a skipping rope, and starts training.

Garner watches as she hits heavy punching bags and rocks it as she throws combinations of punches while bobbing and weaving. He gives her advice, offers fixes, tries to strengthen her guard or increase her speed and power.

During the fight, Garner stays in her corner, keeping the same watchful gaze on her opponents, trying to find weaknesses that Birch can exploit.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” Garner said. “But I’m also trying to keep her out of danger. It’s impossible, but it’s also a coach’s job.”

Garner met Birch at a private training session in the family’s basement in Vaudreuil-d’Orion. It was supposed to be a fitness session, but Garner soon realized he was dealing with someone with natural talent.

During the second training session, he found that she learned quickly and didn’t have to recall the technical advice she gave him last time.

girl punches the bag
Jamaal Garner watches 17-year-old Talia Birch punch a heavy bag at the Club de Boxe G1 in Vaudreuil-Dorion. Birch has been boxing for less than two years and has garnered a lot of accolades. (CBC)

“It was easy,” he said. “What I taught her in her first session felt like nothing had to be redone. Her fluidity, her natural strength.”

He told her it might be time to start training at the gym to compete in a real boxing match.

When Garner told her he would be a real fighter, Birch said she didn’t really believe him.

“But more and more it came true,” she said.

Her first fight will take place in December 2021, and she won, executing a game plan designed by Garner.

With each match Burch gained more experience and now, she says, is really starting to enjoy life in the ring. “It’s a great experience,” she said of her fight. “You just seize the moment.”

Boxing took her to Brampton, Ontario, to a tournament. Birch said she hopes to compete abroad and eventually be part of her Olympic team in Canada.

Garner participates in every tournament and fights her. “They have a good relationship,” he said.

“It’s the proudest feeling I’ve ever had,” Garner said. “I didn’t know how far I could take someone as a coach. I am learning a lot.”

“It’s a fun ride.”

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