By Melissa Novacaska
Emelia Dermott is a force to be reckoned with.
The 17-year-old Burlington-native who studies at the University of Ottawa has been boxing since she was around 11 years old.
Though Dermott also played hockey at one point, she admits she wasn’t a “super active” person compared to her family members. She started boxing for fitness purposes, but it became much more than that.
After training with a few gyms, she got competitive with the sport.
“When [my dad] introduced me to boxing I fell in love with it. It’s a sport that really clicked with me. I can’t imagine doing any other sport,” Dermott told the Ottawa Sportspage while in Europe for developmental training.
After fighting in Burlington and settling with the No Excuse Fitness and Boxing club, Dermott had to make a decision like many her age – where she was going to study in post-secondary school. But for her, it was paired with perhaps an equally important choice of which club she’d train with.
Dermott chose uOttawa and found her next club in Beaver Boxing.
She had previously worked with Beaver’s club president and coach Jill Perry and said she knew she wanted to train more with her in town.
“Jill does a lot of work with girls and boxing, because no one really focuses on it. Boxing isn’t a huge sport in Canada anyway, but all the focus seems to be directed towards the men, which kind of make sense, because there’s more men boxing than women, but it’s just a cycle that keeps going. So Jill was very prominent in the female boxing scene,” Dermott said.
By the time they had trained together for a steady two weeks, Dermott had made up her mind – it was a good fit.
Dermott said moving to a new city and going to a new club can be nerve-racking, but that wasn’t the case for her at Beaver.
“The transition to Beaver was definitely a change, but I think it was good. It’s really helped my boxing and it’s pushed me to another level,” Dermott said.
Though she’s only been at Beaver for less than a year, she’s already accomplished so much.
“It’s amazing. We’ve been traveling so much together and I’ve been fighting a lot,” Dermott said. “I’ve made so many friends, which honestly with switching gyms that was never a main focus for me, but it’s a really nice vibe in the gym.”
After training with Beaver for a number of months now, and hoping to stay with them for a while, Dermott has a range of good things to say about the club, and about Perry specifically.
“Jill’s been incredible. She’s so focused on learning and becoming a better coach and that’s really good for me as an athlete knowing she’s trying to develop just as I’m trying to develop,” Dermott said. “That’s really relieving for me knowing that she’s working hard and if I put in 100 per cent she puts in 120 per cent. She’s a superwoman, she works so hard and she really wants to see me do well and so it’s just a really good match.”
Since her start in the sport, which she says has been “life changing, motivating and inspiring,” Dermott has won four national titles, a silver medal at the continental championships, qualified and fought at the world championships and won a gold medal in an event in Sweden at her first international meet as a Beaver boxer.
She says she’s been winning “pretty constantly” in club meets as well, including the recent Ringside for Youth event, a prestigious charity event that benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa. Dermott beat an opponent from Mexico at the June edition of the event.
Dermott said she was stressed about the match because of the amount of people there, including her parents who came to watch her fight, but overall said it was an “honour” to participate in.
Since boxing with Beaver, Dermott says she’s fought around 10 fights and only lost one.
“You do need a loss every once in a while as a humbling and learning experience,” Dermott said.
According to Dermott, she knows she’s not at her best yet, but looking back she sees how much she’s accomplished so far.
In terms of the sport itself, Dermott said boxing doesn’t just mean one thing for her.
“Boxing’s changed for me throughout the years as I’ve developed. When I first started it was a great way to build confidence and skills and it helped me with time management and stuff that I use for school. I just felt better about myself,” Dermott said. “But as I keep going it’s become so much more. It’s really a lifestyle for me and it shows me that if I put my mind to something I can really accomplish anything and it’s nice.”
Next up for Dermott is going to be a few more developmental events before preparing to fight for a qualifying spot on Team Canada’s Elite team, and, she hopes, eventually securing a spot to fight at the 2024 Olympic Games.