Suri Pafford may only be 14, but she packs a punch. She has big career aspirations, and she's doing whatever she can to make them a reality.
The teenage boxer from Quispamsis, N.B., is headed to Mexico in January for the Adelita Championship, and she will stay there for another month to train with elite competition.
"Honestly just to get a different experience, like different coaching styles, different boxing styles," said Pafford. "I think it would … make me perform better."
Pafford describes her boxing style as patient, but explosive. Last year she won her first gold medal at the Brampton Cup in Ontario and has travelled to international competitions in Ireland and Mexico.
Between boxing training, strength and conditioning, and running, she says she spends 11 hours training each week. It makes for a rigid schedule.
She does her homework right after she gets home from school, and then goes to train, mixed in with some off days to hang out with friends.
Chris Peters, Pafford's coach, says she has an advantage over lots of other athletes her age. She's been doing strength and conditioning training since she was six.
"Suri's got, definitely, some great potential," said Peters, owner of East Coast Boxing & Performance Center in Saint John. "She's years ahead of most, to be quite honest."
Suri Pafford won her first gold medal at the Brampton Cup in Ontario last year. (Submitted by Chris Peters)
She realized about four years ago that she really wanted to put the time into her boxing career, and now she's dreaming big. She wants to make Team Canada, and then be part of Canada's Olympic team. But she says just training isn't enough.
She often goes to Nova Scotia to train, because there is more competition there. In Saint John, there are only a few boxing gyms nearby, and there aren't enough women at her level that she can fight against.
"There's not many sparring partners … so that's kind of tough for me to get training in," said Pafford.
She's picked up some wins at the international competitions she's been to, and even defeated a two-time Irish national champion.
"They were pretty good. I gained a lot of experience from it, just getting to know different boxing styles from different countries," said Pafford.
Chris Peters, Pafford's coach, believes her fitness training from an early age is what sets her apart from other athletes. (Submitted by Chris Peters)
Peters says female boxing is fairly new, and still gaining popularity, compared to places like Europe. The most recent Canada Games, hosted by Prince Edward Island in 2023, was the first time women's boxing was included in the event.
It's one of the reasons Pafford is going to spend a month in Mexico in the new year. She's one of three athletes from the East Coast Boxing & Performance Center who will stay in the country for a month, but the other two are in their 20s, says Peters.
It will be a long time away, and Pafford says that's intimidating, but it's worth it for the experience.
"The more she can see at a younger age, the better prepared she'll be and better equipped with the tools at an older age," said Peters.
Next year it will ramp up, as it will be the first year for her to be able to compete in junior nationals in Calgary.
Peters says she is on the right path to achieve her goals. It will take more travel, more competition, but also another important ingredient — fun.
"We don't want to burn her out.… Remember to have fun along the way is what I always tell her," said Peters. "I think Suri is up to the task."