When Tayler Provost stepped through the doors of Haverhill Downtown Boxing, she drew some quizzical stares.
But when she put on a pair of boxing gloves and stepped into the ring to shadow box, heads really turned. And when she started punching the heavy bag, mouths dropped.
“That girl can really hit,” said Ray Hebert, co-owner of the new club at the edge of downtown.
“She has a whistling right hand,” said his son, Raymond “Rocky” Hebert Jr., an assistant coach at the club.
Provost, 18, of Amesbury is the first female to join Haverhill Downtown Boxing. The club opened on June 7 and is located in a long-vacant storefront at the corner of Locust and Orchard streets, just a few blocks north of downtown.
“To have a girl boxing is amazing and a good thing,” Ray Hebert said. “I hope it will inspire other girls to try the sport.”
Hebert, 58, boxed in his youth in Lowell and his sons, Randy Hebert and Raymond Hebert, were both Golden Glove novice champions.
The elder Hebert opened the club with his business partner Derek Couture, a 2008 New England Golden Gloves champion. A nonprofit organization that relies on membership fees and donations, it also relies on a dedicated group of volunteers who want to teach the sport to children and adults.
Provost’s coach, former Golden Gloves boxer Mike Witham, said Provost is a 5-foot, 3-inch 140-pound dynamo who is in top physical shape and never quits punching. Provost has been a gymnast since she was a kid and now teaches gymnastics in Brentwood, N.H.
“I just like the sport,” she said of boxing.
Last December, she asked her grandfather Marty Provost of Sandown to find someone who could teach her to box. He put her in touch with Witham, who told her she could start in a week. Provost wasn’t satisfied and asked to begin training the next day.