Sports

Lynn native Rashida Ellis packs a punch

Lynn native Rashida Ellis qualified for the 2020 Olympics earlier this month. (Item Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Success in the boxing ring is a family affair for Lynn native Rashida Ellis. With two older brothers, Akeen and Rashidi, who’ve reached the professional level, Ellis took followed in their footsteps and used their success as motivation in her own boxing career.

“My brothers are professionals so they make me work harder,” Ellis said. “They’re fighting big fights and they’re on TV now so I just think, ‘I’m just the little sister, I’ve got to get my name out there too.’ People know me but I’ve just been trying to get my name out there more.

“It has definitely motivated me,” Ellis added. “Seeing them training as hard as they do, they make me want to train harder just like them.”

Ellis’ dedication in the ring paid dividends earlier this month at the USA Boxing Elite Championships in Utah, where Ellis was named Outstanding Elite Female Boxer and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“It didn’t hit me right away after the fight,” Ellis said of qualifying for the Olympics. “I was just happy I won my fight but then when I got back to my hotel I was looking at the belt and the medals and I said to myself, ‘Oh wow I did it. I won. It’s my year and it’s my time now.'”

For Ellis, boxing on the Olympic stage is a goal several years in the making. She fell just short of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics but the shortcoming served as fuel to her fire this time around. Since then, Ellis has worked on the mental aspects of her craft in hopes of making sure she’d seize her next opportunity.

“In those four years I went jogging a lot more often and did a lot more cardio,” Ellis said. “I had it in me all along, it was just all mental. My mental game was so much better this time around. I was more focused and ready. I didn’t do those things last time around so the experience coming in definitely helped. I experienced more and I knew going in I was just going to walk through all those girls, because I had fought them before.”

Along with the hard work, Ellis, a graduate of English High School, credited her parents, Ron and Beverly, for their unwavering support during her career. Ellis is currently ranked the No. 1 fighter in the USA Women’s 135 pound weight class.

“My dad has always been in my corner ever since I started boxing,” Ellis said. “No matter where the fight is he has always been there. My mom she is supportive, but she’s a school teacher so she’s a little more laid-back.”

Also in her corner is her trainer, Alex Sepulveda. Ellis trains out of Private Jewels Fitness in Lynn, which Sepulveda oversees.

Sepulveda said he holds high expectations for Ellis.

“Rashida’s an amazing boxer,” Sepulveda said. “She really is the whole package. Her angles, combinations, everything is where it’s supposed to be. She has been ranked No. 1 for along time. She was expected to be in the last Olympics but there was a turn of events. But now there is nothing holding her back this time. We could be expecting a gold medal coming back home to Lynn.”

But the journey is just beginning for the 23-year-old boxer as Ellis plans to begin training for the Olympics early next month.

“After the fight USA boxing wanted me to be a resident at the Olympic training center in Colorado,” Ellis said. “I’m leaving to go there January 2. It’s going to be a lot of hard training. I caught my breath there for a week but now I’m trying to get back in the gym.”

While in Colorado, Ellis will receive a firsthand look at the level of competition on the international stage. Ellis said she’s looking forward to the experience.

“They have a lot of awkward fighters,’ Ellis said. “People come from Ireland, China and all over the world and we spar. I’m going to get a lot of experience in those weeks with international fighters.

“We will be going to Bulgaria for a tournament called ‘Strandja,'” Ellis added. “It’s like the world championship. They say we are going to be traveling like every other month. I can’t wait for it. I just can’t wait to get out of here for the whole experience.”

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