WHAT started as a simple favour for her policeman dad has turned into something much more for Bendigo boxing teenager Milli Woods.
The 15-year-old is preparing for her first Boxing Australia national under-age championships in Perth next month and says she can’t wait to step through the ropes again.
It’s a far cry from what Woods envisioned what she might be doing just 18 months ago.
Her introduction to the Golden Square-based Hit Factory gym came through her dad, Sergeant Adam Woods, and his involvement with the Blue Light boxing program.
The initiative offers young people aged 12 to 16 insights into the sport and a new focus, while building relationships between youth and the police.
Woods agreed to accompany her dad and took an instant like to boxing.
“Dad did boxing another gym before Blue Light and I went to a few of those classes,” she said.
“He encouraged me to join in, which I was happy to do. I was really enjoying learning a new sport and especially the fitness side of it.
“Eventually a couple of the boys in our class started sparring, so I wanted to join in.”
Twelve-months on, Woods made her in-ring debut, which she narrowly lost on points to an older girl.
Undeterred, Woods entered this month’s Boxing Victoria state under-age championships in Melbourne, where a pair of wins over two days not only boosted her amateur win-loss record to 2-1, but booked the Bendigo youngster a spot in the Victorian team for the national titles in Perth.
The Year 9 Catholic College Bendigo said she was excited by the opportunities that lied ahead.
“I wouldn’t have thought I’d be going to nationals back when I first started boxing,” she said.
“Danniel’s been a great coach. He’s been good organising all my fights and helping me prepare for them.
“(Nationals) is going to be tough, but I’ll just be happy to give it my best in all my fights.
Her Bendigo coach Danniel Burton marvelled at how far Woods had come in such a short period in boxing.
“Sparring is always a test for young boxers, sometimes they get hit for the first time and realise that’s not for me, but Milli was fine with it,” he said.
“Just on 12 months she was ready for her first fight; we went up an age group to get a match for her and it was a cracker of a fight and very close.
“We’re hoping to rematch that girl in the next two weeks.
“Win, lose, or draw, the only way any boxer gets better is in the ring and not by just being in the gym.”
Woods will become the second female boxer from Bendigo to contest the national titles, following in the foot-steps of one her role models and fellow Hit factory boxer Jocelyn Amiet.
Burton, who will be head coach of the Victorian team at the nationals, said Amiet had been the perfect mentor for his young protégé.
“You can’t get better than someone who’s won four Victorian titles and been to the nationals four times,” he said.
“We’re seeing a lot more girls coming through the doors to try boxing, even if it’s only to keep fit and not compete.
“They love the challenge.”