ST. ALBANS – When I took the first few jabs from Cora Thomas inside the boxing ring, I could feel her strength. But don’t take my word for it, take her trainers.

“When I held the hand pads for the first time I was like, this girl has real power,” said Thomas’ longtime head coach Hans Olson. “You don’t see boys 14 [or] 15 years old hitting like that. She was an 11-year-old girl hitting like that. So you knew she had something right off the bat. You could tell.”

Cora is now 16 years old and hitting even harder.

In early February, the BFA- St. Albans junior competed in Missouri for her second national championship in two years and she won.

“I always go into fights [saying] like ‘this girl’s good, but I’m better. I could easily beat this.'” said Thomas, of the recent championship win. “I just go back to all of my training and how far I’ve come.”

It’s a love of boxing that started only five years ago when Cora’s mom brought her and her younger sister for an after-school activity to bond, but ‘just for fun’ quickly evolved into competition.

“Cora has been an athlete since the day she was born,” said her father, Charlie Thomas. “We weren’t surprised that she was good at boxing.”

‘Good at boxing’ is a little modest. Cora won the first competition she was ever in, the 2018 New England Silver Gloves tournament. She won that three more times. She was a runner-up in the national event twice, but then placed first last year and repeated in 2023.

“The journey has been incredible to see a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl win a national championship in a state that has very limited boxing opportunities,” said Charlie Thomas.

It’s the luck of proximity that gave her the opportunity. Her family lives a short drive from the Fitness Zone in St. Albans. At 11 years old, Cora began to train at the Rail City Boxing Club with two coaches.

“When we met Luke [Tatro] and Hans [Olson], [they’re] more than [just] a boxing coach. They’ve invested in her personally. They’re both friends with our family. They care deeply, I’m already crying,” said Charlie Thomas, turning back towards his family. “They care deeply about her.”

With a team committed to their boxing prodigy and several regional championships under her belt, the next step towards Cora’s first national championship last year was maintaining the correct weight for her 119-pound weight class.

“I was exact, right on the dot,” Cora remembered. “I weighed myself, I had just my socks on and I was actually 119.2. I took my socks off, got back on the scale, [and I was] 119 even. It was the most amazing experience. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”

This year, she moved up to the 125-pound weight class, and knocked off the top-ranked boxer at that level. She won in three rounds, relying on one of her favorite moves.

“I really enjoy body shots,” she said. “I like timing the jab and slipping it, and then throwing to the body.”

With the championship secured, one can be assured more dad tears followed. “As her father, [I was] super proud, as a coach equally as proud. You know, Hans is a great friend, so both of us standing on the ring apron and having her name announced was pretty awesome,” Charlie Thomas said through tears.

A passion can take you far, but just how far does head coach Olson think Cora can go? “If boxing is the route she wants to take, the sky’s the limit,” said Olson. “[She’ll be ] competing at a national level with the best in the country.

While this is her plan, Cora is grateful for what boxing has given her and her fellow competitors and she’ll continue to take her best shot.

Cora Thomas is on a six-match winning streak. She hasn’t lost since February 2020.