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Ottawa Muay Thai fighter brings home championship belt

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After knocking out her opponent in the fourth round, Ottawa’s Tayler Kelly is the World Boxing Council (WBC) Muay Thai Canadian amateur champion – a milestone in the fighter’s young career.

“This one was a big deal for me,” said Kelly. “I didn't go out with much expectations, but I'm glad that I could come out with the win.”

The 24-year-old hasn't been competing for very long, first getting into the sport in 2021.

“I started because I got very out of shape in the pandemic, so I started as a way to whip myself back into shape,” she said. “Then one weekend I was like, yeah, I want to put my skills to the test.”

Originating in Thailand, Muay Thai is a form of martial arts consisting of punches, kicks and knee and elbow strikes. It’s a sport many in Ottawa use as a form of exercise.

“In my 20 years in the sport, I’ve seen it grow exponentially,” said Sacha Leonard-Hajizi. He is Kelly's trainer and the owner of Ottawa Fight and Fitness. He says that interest includes a spike in females getting involved in the typically male-dominated sport.

“I feel like the barriers are broken down and more females are realizing the benefits of training and just having that as a part of their life,” said Leonard-Hajizi.

On any given day, you'll find Kelly hitting the pads. She hopes to turn pro and compete as a member of the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations.

“I just love the competition and, you know, showing my hard work,” she said. “That would be a really cool opportunity to represent Team Canada.”

For now, she's focused on her upcoming fights.

“I have nationals at the tournament in Niagara Falls at the end of April. And then here in Ottawa, there is an event at the Aviation Museum. It's going to be a women's only event. And, hopefully I'll be fighting on that June 1.”

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