She may only be 9 years old but, pound for pound, Jesselyn Silva arguably has more heart and ambition than boxers twice and even three times her age.
“I just like the sport,” she said. “When my dad asks, ‘Do you want to go to the gym?’ l always say yes.”
Jesselyn has been boxing since she was 7 years old, after her dad took up the sport to lose weight.
She begged to put on a pair of gloves, and once she did, her gift was undeniable.
“I noticed she started picking things up quicker than me,” said Pedro Silva, Jesselyn’s father. “So I was like…I was surprised.”
Jesselyn said it makes her feel happy when people tell her she’s talented.
“And that I’m not just doing this for nothing,” she said. “I’m doing this for everybody. And for myself, too, so I can become something big when I get older.”
The 74-pound phenom works out for nearly two hours, four days a week.
But with very few female boxers her age, she usually spars with older boys.
She’s only had one sanctioned fight.
Her championship belt hangs in the Bergen Police Athletic League boxing gym where she trains.
“When I won my first match, it felt so good when they put up my hand because it was like my first match and I’m undefeated, but it’s only one fight,” Jesselyn said. “I can’t wait for my next flight.”
Jesselyn is now training for the Golden Gloves in March.
Her coach, Don Somerville, is a former pro boxer with nearly 30 years of experience. He says he’s never seen a talent with Jesselyn’s discipline at this age.
“I don’t ask her to do anything twice,” he said. “She’s done. She’s right on me, ‘Coach what do I do next?’ So she has that desire to be different and that’s the uniqueness of a 9-year-old to want to be different. Now she has that work ethic.”
Jesselyn knows she’s a role model for young girls.
“I have a lot of little girls followed me on Instagram and it feels good that I’m inspiring a lot of girls,” she said.