A hooded figure jogs up Monument Hill in the darkness of a winter morning.
Louisa Hawton’s palms are wet, not from the dew but the sweat which soaks her gloves as she moves up the slope like Sylvester Stallone on the staircase in Rocky.
In her head she repeats to herself “calves like (Manny) Pacquiao” to will herself to the top. For six weeks the 31-year-old Perth boxer has started her day this way in Albury, running through its western hills.
She does so at the behest of Border trainer Mark Janssen, a man she travelled about 3400km, from her home, to train under for her shot at a World Boxing Organisation title.
Hawton, known as “Bang Bang” or “Little Lulu” is 7-0 since becoming a professional boxer two years ago.
After her last win, Hawton was contacted with several title fight offers but decided to go with the first, a match-up with WBO Junior Flyweight champion Eun Hye Lee in South Korea which will finally come to be this Saturday.
It’s been a fast ascent for Hawton who got into the sport after being dragged to a fitness class by best-friend Shelley Fernando in 2012.
For the first time in nearly a decade she felt her old desires being fanned, an ambition to be someone great, to stand out from the pack.
When she was 16, Hawton travelled the globe as a sponsored skateboarder.
At the time it provided an escape for the teen who grew up at a rough time in Mandurah, a coastal town south of Perth, the daughter of an Australian father and a Filipino mother who would practice tai chi in the backyard.
“When I found my skateboard it was kind of like my own peace and my own way of expression,” Hawton said.
“It was a really good avenue to keep myself focused and on track, I just fell in love with it.”
Her dream to be somebody big in the sport didn’t pan out, instead she fell in love, had two children – Eli, now 9, and Estelle, 5 – and kept her focus on her sales job and a budding family.
Stepping into that Perth boxing gym was the beginning of a third act for Hawton, who, three weeks later was in her debut amateur Muay Thai fight. She dropped 7kg, stopped smoking and “worked her arse off”.
A raw bag of energy at the time, Hawton’s coach told her to throw a right as soon as she touched gloves with her opponent after the opening bell.
Unfortunately, Hawton got caught up in the moment when the ref was explaining the rules and she pumped the other fighter in the guts as they put their fists together. The crowd erupted in laughter and Hawton said she even got a grin out of her stunned competition.
“I just giggled and smiled and shrugged my shoulders,” she said.
“I looked past the ref and I just gave her a cheeky smile and I made her smile.”
She lost the fight but found herself, again, in that ring as an old nickname found an apt new life.
“When I was skating I got a page in the Australian Skating Magazine and the guy that wrote the article called me 'Bang Bang Lulu',” Hawton said.
“He called me that because they say in skating you’re landing bangers or hammers.”
An ankle injury three professional fights later provided the excuse for her to switch codes to boxing.
Since then “Bang Bang” has had to hustle to not only train for fights but promote them too.
“It’s so much hard work, I wish I could just focus on my fight and focus all my energies on the gym and my recovery and food,” she said.
“I’ve got my family at home I’ve got to think about too, but nobody understands, people … they won’t come get your tickets until the last week but I need to get these sold to know I’ve covered the cost of the fight.”
Hawton has to drop off tickets to as far away as an hour’s drive – something she hopes will soon change.
Two days before her last fight she crashed her car from the wears of training, cutting weight and driving back from a delivery.
Her unanimous decision win against fellow WBO-contender Jujeath Nagaowa in a six-round fight last year raised her profile.
It was a determined effort in a fight which was nearly called off after a head-clash caused a cut above Hawton’s eye in the first 30 seconds.
“My corner wanted to stop it, I thought don’t stop it I’ve worked so hard to get the fight going,” Hawton said.
Fernando, who has missed only one fight of Hawton’s, was supportive, shouting at her friend not to let Nagaowa get at the wound.
“My cheekbone was like an alien off the side of my head ... that one went the distance, for me it was a great achievement because I was so fired up,” Hawton said.
Hawton, who boxes in the 46kg category, was supposed to fight for the junior flyweight title, 49kg, in January on two weeks notice. The bout was postponed which gave her the chance to seek out Janssen, who she said had been the best thing to happen to her in the past year.
“To find a coach that can push me and that is nurturing as well, has a lot of experience under his belt and knows what it feels like to be in the ring... you can’t find that everywhere, he’s one in a million especially in Australia,” she said.
A genial giant, Janssen towers over his five foot charge in Rob Devlin’s Southern Cross Boxing gym, his laid-back manner meshing well with Hawton’s non-stop jokes. Extra help has come in the form of sparring partners Callum Senior and Devlin’s daughter Tanisha, a Victorian Golden Gloves champ, who has been emulating Lee’s style.
Little Lulu said her real motivation comes from her and Fernando’s children who send messages of support.
“Estelle will say I wonder what colour the belt is going to be and Eli says I bet you’ll win with an uppercut,” Hawton said.
“They see I’m working hard for what I want to achieve and I want them to grow up with that installed in them. So, if they put their heart into it, they can achieve what they want for themselves.”