STOCKTON — Meliyah Amezquita may be small, but the pint-sized boxer’s dreams are big.
“My first goal is to be No. 1 in the nation and then be in the Olympics,” the 10-year-old Stocktonian said.
Meliyah is the youngest and only girl in the Stockton Police Youth Activities League’s six-person group that boxes competitively. She is ranked No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in California in the peewee division. The 4-foot-2 boxer has had seven fights since February, when she started competing, and holds a 4-3 record.
She said she was drawn to the sport after watching her 11-year-old brother train.
Angel Amezquita, Meliyah’s mom, said Meliyah often would spend time at the boxing gymnasium inside the McKinley Park Neighborhood Center while her brother practiced and her dad coached. She would sit ringside, coloring, reading or playing on her phone while the boys trained, she said.
Soon, watching wasn’t enough. Meliyah began following along with the boys, hitting the bags that line the gym and “got the hang of it,” Amezquita said.
“I saw my brother doing it, so I wanted to do it,” Meliyah said as she wrapped her small hands with gauze to prepare for a training session. “I just wanted to do it.”
Her decision to get into boxing took both of her parents by surprise. Meliyah was a cheerleader for several years and takes dance classes.
“I thought she would get hit and not want to do it anymore,” said Johnny Amezquita, Meliyah’s dad.
Angel Amezquita said she didn’t think Meliyah would take the sport seriously, but her commitment to the sport has proved serious.
“She stays committed,” she said, adding that her daughter has the same routine every day of the week: school, homework, training and repeat.
Meliyah spends about two hours Monday through Friday training in the balmy gymnasium in south Stockton. She’ll even spar with her 11-year-old brother, Johnny, who she said will give her tips and advice on improving her footwork. Meliyah, who is 60 pounds, is officially coached by Steve Salas, a 20-year veteran of the sport, and her dad.
On Sept. 4, Meliyah competed in the all-female Beautiful Brawlers match in Pacifica. It was a win there that earned the young boxer her current ranking.
Johnny Amezquita said he has been impressed by his daughter’s success and ability to pick up the sport quickly, but he was taken aback by her fiery personality in the ring.
“I was surprised by her aggressiveness,” he said.
Meliyah’s parents said boxing has boosted her confidence. The 10-year-old does not get nervous before matches, but her mom said she sits there “biting her nails” at every fight.
“I think (boxing) is great,” said Meliyah, whose favorite boxer is Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, who throws a lot of hooks, Meliyah’s favorite punch. “I like hitting the bags. I like hitting people.”
Meliyah is training to land a spot in the Fight for Hunger matches Nov. 19 in Stockton.
— Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.