Our Truth: Melissa
When I began to write this blog post I thought hard about some outrageous hardship unique to me that would inspire women to begin a career in whatever it was they could dream of. Nothing came to mind….
None unique to ME anyhow.
Sure! I’ve been discriminated against, I’ve been judge because I was a “girl”. I’ve been dismissed, ignored, and overlooked and I have DEFINITELY had my share of doubters. But this is nothing UNIQUE to me. After a brief moment of my only experience with writers block I’ve ever had, I started to realize that my experience with adversity in boxing was not powerful enough, alone, to write about. The readers of this blog would have probably experienced all the same adversity as I had. YOU, the reader, have already either figured out a way to push past it…or let it defeat you, whichever one.
So that is what I decided to write about. How to push past the bias of women in fighting sports, and NOT let it defeat you. How to stay focused on your goals and not let others set your limits.
With that: The first question you need to ask yourself when you begin anything in your life is the, WHY? Why are you here. Why do you want to do this? Why does this make you happy? etc. Once you know the ‘WHY’ you can begin to focus on the ‘HOW’. If the answer to the ‘WHY’ is strong enough, then anything that tries to get in the way of your ‘HOW’ becomes trivial.
My experience with boxing may be different than others. Boxing was never my dream growing up. I wasn’t 6 years old and dreaming of becoming an Olympic Champion or knockout artist. It never even crossed my mind. However, I had done team sports my whole life, and I loved the competitive nature of them. But with team sports you can rely on others to pick up your slack. Since I was generally pretty athletic I didn’t need to push myself in order to succeed in team sports. I began to lose my passion and towards the end of my high school athletic career I was so bored with sports that I quit them all. I did not know my WHY anymore. And therefore, I did not care about my HOW.
In boxing you don’t have that luxury. If I did not put in the work I was not going to get the
desired results; simple. And better yet, I wasn’t naturally good at boxing. I had no idea what I was doing. It was brand new to me. When I stepped into the ring I got my butt kicked every time. I couldn’t understand why the thing I had practiced all week didn’t work during sparring; why the boxers I watched in films made it look so simple but I was unable to execute that same simple motion. It was the biggest challenge of my life. And I loved every minute of it - Challenge accepted!
I found my ‘WHY’. Now it was time to find my ‘HOW’. I had to work. I had to run. I had to study. I had to learn. I had to focus. I had to be there physically and mentally 100% of the time. I had to work harder than ever at practice and even harder behind the scenes just to keep up with others in the gym. I had to accept my imperfections and learn from my mistakes and repeat the same simple moves thousands of times, day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
Focusing on my HOW gave me the strength to carry on. Instead of putting all my energy into worrying about the people who wanted to stop me, I focused my attention on the people and situations that would help me succeed. I was so focused on how I was going to accomplish my goal that I didn’t have room to be bothered with the negative comments or biased treatments. I earned my respect in the ring not by begging for it, but by showing them that I deserved a chance, regardless of being a girl or not. I was not going to let anyone, or anything get in the way of accomplishing my new challenge; my HOW.
I love boxing for reasons that I control and manage. Therefore, there is nobody in this world that can change that unless I want them to. And that is why YOU should do anything that you truly want to do. Do it for YOU.
Note from Valkyrie about Melissa:
There is a very small scene when it comes to women within Indiana who box seriously. Melissa entered the scene after my last fight (although I didn't know yet that it was going to be my last). I heard through the grapevine when she appeared even though she had height and weight on me for days, because hey, it's another woman that exists. Within a month of her existence, I heard she was going down to ringside world championships with an old teammate of mine. She won her first, of many, belts. A few months later my coach at the time says he has a new girl coming to spar so suit up. She shows up and I look at her legs (which took about 20 min to go all the way up those muscular, long legs that have to be practically my whole 5'3 stature long) and I look at him like he's crazy. He says back to my crazy eyes, "I know, but you're fine. She's new". Fuck that, I think to myself, She's new and I already know who she is and there's a reason for that. I know how this game works, people don't hear you exist until you exist.
I did fine sparing with her that night (not my best, not the best I'll see out of Melissa in coming years because, well, she's gone on to win several belts and I had heard about her for a reason). When she talks to me afterwards though, I started crying. Not the impression you want to give any other boxer, let alone one that you just met and not on your team. She met my crying with empathy and the most understanding that she could considering she was on the beginning of her journey and I was on the end of mine. We've spared since then with no tears involved, but I've continued to follow her career and cheer her on for many reasons, but the 2 most important being: Number 1, she has what it takes. period. Number 2, she's a woman who met another woman in weakness and didn't prey outside the ring. She met me with all she had within that ring and saw me as another woman with struggles afterwards. We looked at each other as someone to lift the other up. No mater what stage of boxing you're in, no mater where you came from or who you're going to become in this world, I was another woman who was obviously struggling. Weather she understood my pain or not, she was caring. That takes a healthy human being to be able to do those both in the same hour.
Women are fighters. period, That's not debatable. But when we are whole, healthy women, okay with all parts of ourselves, then we get it right in the ring. Melissa was already was at a different wholeness level when I met her, whereas I had needed boxing to help heal me first before I could do everything I needed to do in the ring. She was willing to beat my face in as respected equals in the ring, and then console me on something totally unrelated to her or any exchange with her in order to help a fellow woman excel. This is why is why my money is on her career. Boxing makes us, as women, powerfully whole. When we box whole, we become unstoppable. There is no angle that you can come at us that we aren't prepared.
If you have enjoyed this series and would like to hear more female boxer's truths, here is a list of books that come recommended by different members of our team:
Without Apology: Girls, Women, and the Desire to Fight By Leah Hager Coahen
The Sweetest Thing: A Boxer's Memoir by Mischa Merz
Boxing Shadows by W.K. Stratton with Anissa "The Assassin" Zamarron
Rise: Surviving the Fight Of My Life by Paige Vanzant
My Fight/Your Fight by Ronda Rousey
A History of Women's Boxing By Malissa Smith