Heather Barker finishes her training camp, finds an opponent

Pish! Pish pish! Pish! Pish pish pish pish!

What’s happening here? We are in Montréal, Canada. Heather Barker is training hard to prepare for her return fight. Her coach Sylvie Chouinard watches closely.

We are in the first hour of a very demanding training session. Heather has been hitting the bag for eight rounds already. Her mauve gloves knock the heavy bag around. She breathes out when hitting and breathes in while moving.

Sylvie: “Come on, girl! Give me more! This bag is an opponent you have to hurt!”

The Kelowna native moves around and keeps throwing combinations. The helpless bag absorbs everything at the end of her fists.


In the second half of today’s program, Sylvie makes Heather work on her handpads. It’s even more difficult.

At first, light shots to work on speed. After that, the coach throws shots to work on defensive reflexes, and requires Heather to hit the pads quickly. The White Swan squeezes her fists as hard as possible to throw her hardest punches. No matter what she does, it’s never good enough. Sylvie requires more.

Once the second hour is done, an exhausted Heather is relieved when her coach puts an end to the session.

Sylvie: “Time!”

The purple-haired fighter squats and tries to catch her breath.

Heather: “Oof.”

Sylvie squats as well, with a smile.

Heather: “That was hard. So hard.”

Sylvie grins: “That’s how it should be.”

Heather: “My shoulders hurt. My hands hurt!”

Sylvie: “Of course, but you know this is the way it works. Look at you. So healthy. So fit. You’re working like a beast. You’re ready to return.”

Heather: “Thank you. Who can we fight?”


Sue Strong

Sylvie: “Ring Kings are organising a card at the casino. They are matching Americans with our local fighters. They found this girl called Sue Strong, from Miami, in the Lightweight division. Undefeated, but the scouts are confident that this is the right match for you.”

Heather: “That sounds like a plan.”

Sylvie: “Chances are this will be a solid challenge for a return fight, but the scouts are good. I think we can trust them.”

Heather grins: “It will be a challenge until I get my uppercut in.”

Sylvie: “Hahaha! Come on. Shower and we can have dinner. My treat.”

In Miami, Sue and her coach Mark Ford are also at work. The fighter is hitting the bag in the final phase of her session.

Sue Strong training

The ring buzzer signals the end of the round.

Mark: “Time! Good job. Another amazing session. We can coast and only do muscle memory work ahead of your fight.”

Sue: “Thanks. Have we found my opponent?”

Mark: “Yes. It’s Heather Barker, a former Canadian Featherweight champion.”

Sue: “So, a good challenge.”

Mark: “Yes. She’s good, but you’re better. I expect another win against her. I think you’re the complete package. Nobody else has that in the division.”

Sue: “Thank you. We’ve put in so much work. Can’t let anyone win at this point. After Heather, I’d like to win some belts. Three or four of them to show off… if we can find the opponents for it.”

Mark: “Sure. After you beat Heather, we can get good offers.”

Sue: “What do we know about her?”

Mark: “Slick. Smart. Not the quickest, not the hardest puncher, but she fights well.”

Sue: “A true sportsman, too? You know I find that important.”

Mark: “I think she is. Good reputation, at least. That fight will take place in Montréal.”

Sue: “Awesome. I’ve never been there before. It’s good to see the world.”

Mark: “Yes. The more people see you, the more the boxing world will appreciate you.”

About Sue Strong

Sue Strong fighter card

Sue Strong is an undefeated American Lightweight from Miami. Her life path is nothing unusual, but boxing is what keeps it interesting.

The sole daughter of a middle class family, Sue was good in liberal arts and humanities in school. Her exceptionally friendly character and incredibly high standards made her extremely popular among students. You would never hear a bad word coming from her mouth.

Sue’s natural interpersonal skills include patience, attentiveness and an instinct to find the right words to say at the right time. Add an ability to pick up new knowlege and you won’t be surprised to hear that she felt compelled to get education and training to work in customer service.

She found a job at an international firm that often deals with difficult customers. The number one goal in after-sales relations with them is to defend the company’s interests, especially when accused of wrongdoing. Admitting any fault means either having to do more for those customers (diminishing the profit margin) or even legal implications.

On a day-to-day basis, Sue has to repeat lines such as “I’m sorry that you feel that way” and to express empathy while listening to complaints, without admitting anything. She’s good at it, but there’s a point where it gets boring.

A gifted athlete, Sue has been into sports since a very young age. Her admiration for Oscar de la Hoya made her pick up boxing. She struggled greatly in the amateur ranks, losing as many fights as she won. It felt terrible, but it built her character.

Sue turned a corner when a new coach approached her. Mark Ford saw her fighting a few times, and he felt he could make a difference. He made her work incredibly hard on her skills, turning her from a very average boxer to a perfect one. They quickly fell in love and got married.

A promoter approached Mark to match his wife up with a prospect. The intention was to use her as a journeyman. The couple had other plans. She knocked a young prodigy out inside three rounds and saw that, in this partnership, she could succeed.

After five straight wins, Sue started getting better paychecks and offers. She could afford to cut back her hours at the office and pour more energy into boxing, without making financial sacrifices. She went on a tear, winning her fights in increasingly impressive fashion. Many turned into ugly scraps despite her superior skills, but it never affected her ability to win.

Today, Sue’s record stands at 11-0, with seven of her wins coming by way of knockout. She’s received solid punches and has been knocked down a lot, but she always gets up, wins and earns her opponent’s admiration.

The best way to describe her fights is to adapt a famous quote by Gary Lineker: Boxing is a simple game. Two people punch each other and at the end, Sue wins.

Heather Barker
Heather Barker
A former Canadian Featherweight champ, Heather Barker is a religious, caring and ambitious woman based in Montreal.