Meet Our Board and Coaches
Founder, President, Head Coach
Laura discovered boxing at the beginning of 2010…on a dare. She walked through the doors of Terence Fowler’s FightFit in St. Catharines and hasn’t looked back. She fell in love with the sport and, at the end of 2013, asked the founder of Pearl Gloves if she could be on the fight card for the annual charity boxing event.
In November 2014, Laura had her first fight and gave her friend and opponent, Brie Maheu, a hard fight. Had a winner been called (it was an exhibition), Laura knows Brie would have been declared the victor. The real victory for Laura was getting into the ring and giving it her all. On October 8, 2016, Laura fought at Irwin’s Boxing Club for her then-coach Billy Irwin. It was, again, an exhibition, and Laura dominated the fight. Laura is a Boxing Ontario certified Level 1 boxing coach and is working on her full NCCP coaching certification through Coaches Association of Ontario.
Since learning about Shape Your Life from Cathy van Ingen in 2014, Laura has wanted to bring the program to Niagara. Shape Your Life is a social and recreational boxing program for women-identified individuals who are survivors of violence. Laura knows the benefits of boxing for healing from physical and emotional trauma.
Currently, Laura is a board member for Niagara Podcasters' Network and sits on the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council. She is also a member of Niagara Poverty Reduction Network’s Wages and Work committee, and she runs The Practical Feminist blog and co-hosts The Practical Feminist podcast.
Hugo Chesshire is the Policy and Government Relations Manager at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC), the largest business organization in Niagara and the third-largest Chamber in Ontario. His role is one of counsel to 1,600 members of the GNCC and of advocacy on their behalf. As a political expert, he advises the organization’s board, staff, and membership on policy and its impact on their operations. He also advocates for Chamber members and the business community at large to all levels of government.
Hugo has lived, worked, or studied in the U.K., Canada, France, China, the Philippines and the Czech Republic. He has previously served as a research manager and associate, and as a teaching assistant at Brock University. He has also worked as a researcher and editor on books such as Union Power: Solidarity and Struggle in Niagara, a history of the Niagara labour movement, and Socialist Cowboy: The Politics of Peter Kormos, a study of the late, long-serving M.P.P. for Welland.
Born in Birmingham, England, Hugo has lived in the Niagara region since 2000 and is a dual Canadian/U.K. citizen. He holds an M.A. in Political Science and a B.A. (1st Class Hons.) in Political Science and Labour Studies from Brock University. He was top of his class in both and received a dozen merit-based awards and scholarships. His research has been presented at top-tier academic conferences across North America.
Although fairly new to the Niagara region, Arienne has quickly become integrated into the community. She spends her time working and learning more about the issues that face the area.
Arienne currently works as the Community and Public Relations Coordinator at a local non-profit where she plans events, creates content, and engages with the community. She tends to enjoy pushing herself in her work and personal life. Challenges motivate her, as she likes to find ways to overcome them. She’ll tell you, “I truly believe you cannot develop and learn if you don't try new things.”
Arienne has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Ontario where she majored in English Language and Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. From there, she completed the Corporate Communication and Public Relations post-graduate program at Fanshawe College in 2015.
She is proud to be member of the Niagara Podcasters' Network as a co-host for The Empowered Millennials. Arienne is a young professional who is passionate about making a difference in the Niagara region. Her desire to help with gender issues using her skill set in communication is just one of the reasons she has joined the Board for Underdogs Boxing Club.
Laura Hughes is a Niagara-based community educator, writer, and motivational speaker delivering equity and arts programming to youth, educators, and organizations. She has facilitated more 60 workshops across southern Ontario to elementary, secondary, college, and university students on topics of consent education, youth leadership, mental health, inclusive sexual health education, and on eradicating sexual violence.
Laura is trained as a specialized counsellor and advocate for sexual violence survivors from George Brown College’s AWCCA program and has been involved in community activism for the past 8 years. Her Master of Education research focused on centering queer, non-binary, and trans youth in the teaching of Ontario’s updated sexual health education curriculum, and on creating professional development opportunities and resources for teachers to bridge the gap between curriculum and the classroom.
In between writing and teaching, Laura is part of the Leadership Niagara 2017-2018 cohort, volunteers with Gillian’s Place, is on the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women committee, and is eager to bring her background in sports, training, and Muay Thai to her work at Underdogs.
Coach - Shape Your Life Niagara
Michelle was introduced to boxing in 2016 when she was selected as a Pearl Gloves fighter to support agencies that work with people living with Multiple Sclerosis. A sparring injury late in her training kept her from fight night but her passion for the sport remained. Now, she works the heavy bag a few days a week as a way to feel strong and focused.
Michelle has spent the past 20 years in social work, operations management, and starting her consulting business in addition to her contributions to many committees in the areas of health and wellbeing, education, and social justice.
It is her love of boxing combined with an ongoing desire for community-building and people development that made coaching the Shape Your Life program a natural fit. Michelle understands that life often presents us with difficult challenges of which deep healing must occur and believes that our bodies can play an integral role in that healing. She enjoys a wide range of physical activities, adopting a "strong body-strong mind" approach and looks forward to sharing her vision and that of the Shape Your Life program with participants so they can experience a renewed sense of strength and empowerment.