Jesselyn Silva is a 10-year-old boxer from New Jersey. She has big dreams, and the sort of bountiful confidence required to make them happen. When Jesselyn puts on her gloves and steps into the ring, she likes to go by another name: JessZilla.
In a touching documentary for The New York Times titled Girl Boxer, Jesselyn opens up about the challenges of fighting her way into a male-dominated sport. She has trouble finding other young girls to compete against, for one thing; there are only 1,194 registered female boxers under age 18 in the United States, according to NorthJersey.com. And Jesselyn hasn’t always had the support of her peers.
“When I first started to box, kids inside my school were telling me, ‘Oh, girls aren’t supposed to be boxing. It’s only a men’s sport,’” Jesselyn explains. “As I started getting better and better, and started getting on the newspaper and on shows they started to actually start supporting me.”
A more constant source of encouragement is Jesselyn’s father Pedro, who cheers her on (and frets about her) during practices and fights.
Despite the obstacles she faces, Jesselyn seems determined to forge ahead with her plans to become a champion boxer. “I have something called a dream calendar,” she told documentarian Emily Sheskin. “And in the back of it, there’s goals on it that I want to reach. For my big goal, I want to go to the 2024 Olympics and win the gold.”
Watch the full documentary below.
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