Fighter steps into ring against Father Time

By Sarah Di Tosto

Seated at her kitchen table, sipping a cup of tea, Jill Perry hardly looks like your stereotypical pugilist.

But see the Centretown resident in action at the Ottawa Beaver Boxing Club on Carling Avenue, and it’s hard to imagine her doing anything else.

There’s no doubt she stands out — at 37, Perry is the club’s oldest female member, but she more than holds her own, whether she’s pounding the punching bag, sparring with fellow members or instructing a class of novice boxers.

Perry, who has been boxing for just over five years, will be competing in the 57 kilogram weight class at the Ontario Provincial Boxing Championships Nov. 20-23 in Windsor. She says she’s ready to go.

“My first goal is provincials. I’m not taking this journey to lose. It’s just not an option.”

Although she’s only five-foot-two, Perry makes up for her small size with an undeniable physical presence. She works hard to maintain her conditioning, and it’s obvious she’s in top form. In addition to training at the club three nights a week, she runs regularly during her lunch hour and participates in a kickboxing class.

Perry says her conditioning is her strongest asset. “I’m short and I don’t have a lot of reach, but I’m strong for my size and I don’t let myself get pushed around,” she says.

Joe Sandulo, Perry’s coach and president of the Beaver Boxing Club, agrees.

“She’s extremely disciplined about her training — she gives 110 per cent,” Sandulo says.

But even more important, he adds, Perry is as tough mentally as she is physically.

“She’s always ready, no matter what. I don’t ever need to crank her up before a fight.”

Perry agrees. She says being ready for a fight is about more than just working out.

“Before bed,” she says, “I think about what I’m going to do in the ring.”

She says positive visualization has served her well. In her first fight with an experienced opponent, she faced “a southpaw with a really strange style.”

“I wanted this so bad . . . I dreamed about the win,” says Perry. “But she kept coming at me from angles I wasn’t used to, and I was so discouraged. But for the six minutes you’re in the ring, you have to believe in yourself. You have to be on.”

She won that match, even though her opponent had 54 fights experience compared to Perry’s five. Now, as the provincials draw near, Perry has fought 16 matches and lost just two. But one of those losses in particular, at last year’s provincials, fuels Perry’s determination to win this year in Windsor.

“I have to avenge that one,” says Perry. “I’m not going to let that one down.”

Sandulo believes Perry canwin at the provincials, especially after her gold-medal win earlier this month at the Arnie Boehm Open in St. Catharines.

“It’s going to take a real good girl, a really smart boxer, to beat Jill.”

But even though she’s training hard for provincials, members at Beaver Boxing say Perry still makes time for the other boxers at the club. Richard Son, a 22-year-old Beaver member, says Perry is always available for guidance and support.

“She’s the best instructor because she always makes time for you,” he says.

But Perry says she gets as much out of her fellow members as she gives to them.

“I’m only as good as the people I train with. Some days when I’m tired, I just look at them, and I know to keep pushing.”

And she says she’ll continue to push as long as she keeps improving in the ring.

“I’m 37 and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. I’m lean, I feel good and I feel strong,” she says.

“It’s empowering.”