Her ring name is The Predator so when Olivia Gerula picked a North End boxing gym for an interview and photo shoot we weren't sure what to expect.
Maybe arms covered in tattoos, a scarred face and a raspy voice better suited for delivering ransom demands.
Arriving in a pair of calf-length boots with high heels, jeans and a black wool coat, Gerula could have been any young woman in this city heading out to pick up groceries or close a business deal.
When the 5-foot-3, 130-pound 30-year-old dropped her handbag onto the floor and pulled out the WBC world women's super featherweight championship belt, Gerula began to transform from single mother to world champion.
Think about it: There's a woman living somewhere in West Kildonan raising two kids and trying to pay her mortgage through a series of jobs and, oh yeah, on the side she's The Champ.
"I have to have my priorities. I'm crazy busy. I have to get my training and my sparring in but my kids are my kids and when I get home we're going swimming or playing video games or doing puzzles. That's the other side of my life," said Gerula. "I take my kids to soccer and all that stuff and when I fight I like to punish my opponents. I take satisfaction in making them suffer. I love to use body shots. If you watch me fight, I usually have a smile on my face. It's a devious little smile... I'd like to go to work in a business suit some day. But then I think that's crazy. My life is physical fitness. I spend a lot of time in sweatpants. The boyfriend is kind of impressed when I look like a girl."
Gerula will put her title on the line Dec. 17 in Paris against France's WBC champion Myriam Chomaz in a 10-round championship fight.
"Why do I do this? I'm gonna say love. It's something I'm passionate about and I would do for free even though it's a professional career. It's not something I set out to do, it's just sort of what I've become," said Gerula, who says she makes in the neighbourhood of $10,000 per fight prior to management fees. She also works as a professional trainer here in Winnipeg. "I've been doing this for over a decade. I've had a long career. I was 17 and fighting in New York in casinos."
Gerula, who has had fights in Tokyo, Las Vegas, California and North Dakota, to name a few places, was a gymnast and soccer player as a child and then discovered boxing as a teen.
"I had really strong legs and I was flexible, so I thought I could kick guys in the head. So I talked my mom into letting me go to a kick-boxing class," said Gerula. "From there I jumped into boxing. I had no amateur training. But the women coming in today, they have so much skill. When I first started, people didn't know how to throw a proper jab."
Gerula is 12-10-2 and has taken her lumps while climbing to the top of the sport. She was knocked out in Winnipeg by Edmonton's Jelena Mrdjenovich and had to wait nearly five years for a rematch. When she got it, the world title was on the line and Gerula took a unanimous 10-round decision and the belt.
"I've been a bit of a road warrior and fought away from home a lot," said Gerula.
"Everything I've learned has made me the fighter I am today. I've been knocked out in a fight and I just redeemed that loss with my title win. She shocked me here in Winnipeg. I got caught and I got clipped. It took almost five years, but I beat her on her terms. She won the belt after beating me and I don't think she took me seriously. She should have. It took me a long time to get that fight and I had been working and working for it."
Since winning the belt earlier this year, Gerula's matchmakers have been working on her first title defence. Her fight with Chomaz has been scrubbed four times for a variety of reasons.
"I've been told not to fight her inside. She's built and she's powerful," said Gerula. "I'm an inside fighter so this will be a test. But I've been training for six months for this fight and I'm not pleased about that. So I'll try and take it out on her."