Past article written about Jeffries
by Martha Engber
Kelsey Jeffries hopes to bring women's
boxing into the mainstream
IN THE CORNER of the ring, 21-year-old
Kelsey Jeffries of Sunnyvale starts to prance. She stops to roll her
ankles, shoulders or neck, then again starts prancing and
shadowboxing. She wears padded headgear, black shorts and a blue
sleeveless shirt that shows her broad, muscled back and arms. Her
expression is blank, neither nervous nor excited.
The round starts, and with 100 people
watching, Jeffries moves in to meet her female boxing opponent from
Roseville. The two move around and throw some cautious punches.
Jeffries starts to land some blows and the opponent backs away, but
Jeffries pursues, throwing punches to the head from both
The opponent appears to be tiring, but
Jeffries maintains a dancing energy as she keeps her head tucked and
her fists up to protect her face, all the while studying her
opponent and moving fast to connect with flesh. She bores into her
opponent, chasing her around the ring, pinning her against the
One three-minute round, then two, then
the final buzzer sounds, and it's Jeffries' arm the referee raises
when the winner is announced.
What's evident from watching the fight is
that the opponent looks like a woman who boxes, while Jeffries looks
like a woman boxer. It's in the way she holds her shoulders when she
walks, the steady look in her eyes and the unflagging energy. This
is a woman who this week will attend the country's first-ever
national women's amateur boxing tournament, held July 1619 in
Augusta, Ga., and sponsored by USA Boxing, which opened up official
amateur boxing to women just four years ago.
"A lot of these guys will stop when they
see her training. She's amazing," said trainer Basilio Deanda, who
spars with her. "I found out that she could hit good. I've had girls
punch me before, and it was like being hit with a
He hit her once with a straight right jab
to see if she could take it. It shook her a little, he said, but she
rebounded. "She said, 'Is that the best you could do?' I started
At 5 feet 5 inches tall and 120 pounds,
and with shoulder-length blond hair, Jeffries--like most
people--wouldn't stand out in a crowd. But when she puts her hair in
a ponytail, pulls off her sweatshirt, dons her boxing shoes and
gloves and starts her workout, the intensity is there, and the lean,
muscled body is apparent.
Her intense, confident determination was
apparent at age 4, when she joined a soccer league to follow in the
athletic footsteps of her two older brothers, said Jeffries' mother,
Diana Ortiz of Sunnyvale.
Even though it was a co-ed league,
Jeffries wanted her hair cut short before starting practice because
she didn't want anyone to know she was a girl.
Jeffries' brother Jared acknowledged that
having a sister who boxed was a tough idea to get used to, as was
having his friends jokingly ask if his sister could beat him up. He
told them she was certainly feisty enough.
This, after all, was a kid who in third
grade got suspended from school for a day after clobbering a boy who
took her soccer ball and then grabbed her shirt.
Jeffries said she doesn't know how she
circumvented the traditional girl route of dance and gymnastics
classes to wind up in boxing. She figures God has a reason for her
being where she is, and she is therefore happy to pursue what she
loves. While trainers and officials believe she and other female
boxers have that right, some can't get used to the idea.
"As a boxing person, I have to accept it.
As a person, I don't like it," said Sonny Marson, president of
Northern California USA Boxing. "I just feel it's a man's
However politically incorrect for the
times, Marson voiced commonly held misgivings: that women aren't
built for the rigors of boxing; that women boxing women will lead to
women boxing men; that "the minute a woman gets hurt, they'll
abolish the sport."
"I felt that way--until Kelsey came
along," said Angelo Rogers, a trainer with 59 years of dedication to
boxing who volunteers his time to run a gym six days a
Norma Yasinitsky of San Jose has also
learned to appreciate boxing. After 10 years in tae kwon do, she
recently started training at Rogers' gym with her husband,
"It's the hardest workout I've ever
done," Yasinitsky said. "Then you're dead, and you feel great. When
it starts working the way it should be, it's like--whoa."
It's that rhythmic click that seems to
draw Jeffries, too. She said she's still not sure how she got into
boxing, and she doesn't care what other people think. "I just do my
own thing, and if somebody's got a problem with it, that's their
business. ... The image of who I think I should be--that's my role