Jesselyn Silva’s average day isn’t like most 13-year-old girls' average days. She runs, hits a punching bag, and practices sparring against her coach—all before she has to concentrate on school. But there’s nothing average about Jesselyn, a reality detailed in her memoir, My Corner of the Ring.
Thirteen might seem like an early age to write a memoir. But Jesselyn, a world-class boxer, is not exactly ordinary.
Raised by a single dad, Pedro, Jesselyn started boxing when she was seven years old. “I am a daddy’s girl,” Jesselyn said. “One day I saw my dad hitting the bag and I wanted to do what he was doing.” That curiosity sparked a dream to be one of the best female boxers of all time.
Jesselyn works hard. She trains everyday at Savage Boxing and Fitness in Hackensack, New Jersey, a town about 15 miles outside New York City. Community is very important to Jesselyn. She says one of the things she enjoys most about boxing is the tight-knit circle that it has helped her create. She and her father have made many friends through the sport.
“Everyone gets along and everyone knows each other,” she said. “I like how everyone treats each other.” The respect that Jesselyn and other boxers show one another is rooted in their shared understanding of the sacrifice it takes to make it in the ring. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to compete,” Jesselyn said. “You have to have desire. And if you have the desire to be great, you have to go for it.”
Jesselyn’s book is an inspirational tale of her journey in the sport. She wrote it to motivate other girls to let go of their fears of competing. “To girls interested in boxing: It might seem scary at first,” she said. “But once you do it and get in the ring, it’s really fun. Boxing is about facing fears and overcoming them.”
While Jesselyn tries to inspire young girls to enjoy the sport, Jesselyn looks up to her own role models in boxing. One of her heroes is Katie Taylor, a lightweight boxer from Ireland with a 14–0 record. Taylor won the gold medal during the 2012 Olympics before turning pro, and is considered to be one of the best female boxers in the world.
Another of Jesselyn’s idols is Claressa Shields, the reigning undisputed female middleweight champion. Shields also won gold at the 2012 Olympics, as well as the 2016 Olympics for Team USA. Jesselyn was at Shields' fight in April when Shields defeated Christina Hammer in Atlantic City, a fight that was televised all over the world.
Jesselyn believes that women are getting more and more attention in the sport of boxing. Her ambition is to go to the 2024 Olympics, turn pro, and become a world champion. “I want to break boundaries,” she said. “I want to be a role model and show girls who are up and coming.”
With her work ethic, her drive, and her community—led by her father—behind her, Jesselyn Silva seems to be on the way to making her dreams come true.
Photo Credit: Pedro Silva