Sarah Dwyer will honour home as she prepares for the biggest test of her professional boxing career. An undisclosed – but “very Aussie” – anthem will score her walk to the ring to face Costa Rican Hanna Gabriels for the WBA super welterweight title in Nicaragua on Saturday, January 26 (local time).
“You couldn’t pick more of a patriotic day, really, to fight on,” Dwyer told EMG. “That will definitely add to my drive to perform well.”
The pair will serve as the main event for the Nica Boxing card which will be held at Baco Discoteca in Managua. The bout will be the Dwyer’s first overseas, and her toughest challenge to date. Gabriels (18-2-1) last fought in June for the IBF and WBA middleweight titles where she lost a unanimous decision to two-time Olympic gold medallist Claressa Shields, after dropping her in the first round.
Dwyer (3-4-1) acknowledges the “step-up” in competition she’ll face Saturday, but hopes to exploit some of the things she saw in that fight.
“She’s really tough. She’s a tough girl, high work rate and strong. And she’s skilful, moves really well. She’s a beautiful boxer. We have picked up a few things that I’ve worked on a lot that might be able to catch her at certain times, so let’s see [this] week if those things work.”
At 69.9kg, Dwyer won’t have a weight cut to worry about this weekend. She last fought (and drew with) Tayla Harris in November for the Australian middleweight title, though she’s competed at every interval between that and lightweight. Jumping weight classes is something the Perth boxer has become accustomed to in order to get fights.
“[Women’s boxing in Australia is] definitely getting bigger. Although, I say that, but it still is hard to get a fight in Australia at your weight. I mean, when you fight one girl who’s at your weight, you’re kind of looking around thinking, ‘Alright, what do I do next? Who do I fight next?’”
Dwyer, 35, believes that financial support would improve the boxing scene for women, who don’t get paid as much for fights nor receive the sponsorship opportunities their male equivalents do.
“I think businesses need to get around girls more,” she said. “If business sponsorships got behind women, we’d be able to devote a lot more time towards training and towards fighting. We’d be able to fly places and to fly people in. But at the moment, I mean, I still have a full-time job because boxing doesn’t pay for my life.
Along with training twice per day, she works as a personal trainer.
“It’d be great, obviously, to be able to box full-time but like I said, there’s only maybe one girl in the country that would get that support at the moment.”
Dwyer’s boxing journey began when she walked past a gym about 13 years ago and thought it looked like fun. From the beginning she was adamant about learning every technique properly, but she was spurred on by her love of cardio, which she attributes to be a personal kind of “meditation.” Then one day her then-coach suggested she fight competitively, and though she was hesitant, she decided to give it a try. For her first spar, he brought in a much lighter opponent – “a tiny, little girl”.
“She punched me square in the face and I sat in the car for half an hour and cried,” Dwyer said. “And then I stopped and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I wanna go back and do that again.’”
Dwyer now trains out of No Regrets Training in Coolbinia under the guidance of Dayle “Big Rig” Phillips, with whom she shares a special bond.
“We’re very close. We’re like an old married couple sometimes,” she laughed.
“He’ll tell me how it is. Where I think a lot of other people – they’ll only tell me what I wanna hear. Big Rig will tell me what I don’t wanna hear, and even though I don’t wanna hear it, I think it really does help me in the end.”
But if anyone believes Dwyer can get the job done on Saturday, it’s Big Rig.
“The preparation’s gone really well. She’s improved in leaps and bounds as the camp’s gone along, and she can’t be any fitter, any mentally stronger than what she is. I think she’s ready to go and has what it takes,” Phillips said. “I think we’re going in with the right game plan to match her opponent, if not take her out.”
For Dwyer, a win over a high-profile boxer like Gabriels for the super welterweight title would be the culmination of many years’ hard work and an achievement of significant she could hardly articulate.
“I literally cannot explain to you what this would mean to me. It would almost be like – it would be the goal of my life to win this fight.”