BY: GARY AHUJA/BLACK PRESS
This is not the life Sarah Pucek imagined.
In high school, the athletic Pucek abandoned all the sports she played.
Her post-high school plans did not include any career ambitions and her one goal was to move away from everyone and live in isolation.
But boxing changed that.
It started with her joining her older brother, Steve, at the City Boxing Club.
Pucek had no intentions of boxing, but was just attending as a way to stay in shape.
City Boxing coach Dave Allison saw potential immediately.
“She was competitive, you could see she was a natural athlete and she gravitated to the sport. She soaked everything up. It wasn’t just that we were teaching her, she was absorbing it.”
This Friday (Sept. 9), Pucek, a 29-year-old from Fort Langley, will step into the ring at the Langley Coast Hotel and Convention Centre for the main event at the Clash at the Cascades.
Pucek will fight Montreal’s Lucia Larcinese in a 10-round bout with two titles on the line: Pucek’s Canadian Featherweight (126 pound) title as well as the British Commonwealth Championship.
And this is a far different place from where Pucek was when she first stepped into the ring.
Back then, Pucek was dealing with depression, an eating disorder and body image issues.
“I wouldn’t say I was a mess as a teenager, but I was dealing with some issues and didn’t really have much ambition to be anything special in life,” she explained.
When Pucek was in Grade 12 at Abbotsford’s St. John Brebeuf School, her decision to quit sports was not because of a dwindling passion for the games. Instead, it was a fear rooted in her body issues, and more specifically, a fear of being muscular.
But Pucek quickly fell in love with boxing.
“(The sport) gave me the tools so I could learn how to focus and accomplish things,” she said.
“It made my life awesome, and I attribute it to boxing.
“I found if you work hard you can really do anything you want.”
Boxing gave her direction, guidance and most importantly, a healthy outlook on her body.
“I learned that even though I was gaining more muscle, I was healthy, I was fit. I became more confident in my body and accepting of it,” Pucek said.
And taking a cue from Allison, her coach from the start, Pucek learned about more than just boxing.
“He is the type of guy who if he says is going to do something, you know he is going to do it,” she said.
That determination rubbed off on Pucek.
“Now I know if I say I am going to do something, I know I am going to do it,” she said.
“My mindset kind of changed. I wanted to go to school, and not only did I go to school, but I worked full time and I boxed.”
Pucek earned her diploma from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in horticultural design — she is working towards completing her degree — and now works as the horticultural manager at Thunderbird Show Park.
Thunderbird is also her main sponsor for boxing.
“By actually doing it and doing the hard work and seeing it pay off, that is what made me realize, I really can do anything,” she added.
Trying to juggle boxing, schooling and full-time work, Pucek did take a three-year hiatus from the sport.
After winning the Canadian title against Larcinese a few years ago, Pucek put her burgeoning boxing career on hold.
But this past December, the itch returned and she got back in the ring in April. In nine career bouts, her overall record is six wins, two losses and a draw. As an amateur, she went 11-4.
In addition to missing boxing, Pucek said part of the reason she came back was that she was not happy with the manner in which she defeated Larcinese for the Canadian title back in 2012.
“I felt like I won the fight, but to be honest, I thought we were both terrible,” Pucek said, adding that Larcinese thought she had won the bout. “I think by my performance, none of us deserved that title.”
“It is unfinished business. If she felt like she won, she should get the chance to fight me again and I should get the chance to fight the way I actually fight. A redemption fight.
“I really want to fight for the title and win it the way I envision myself winning the title.”
“Her greatest overall asset is her competitiveness,” Allison said. “But in terms of actual boxing mechanics, I would say it is a combination of her footwork, and her balance.
“She can basically throw any punch and that gives her a very deep well to draw on.”
As for long-term plans in the sport, Pucek is aiming big as she wants a shot at Edmonton’s Jelena Mrdjenovich, the eight-time world champion for their weight class.