Back in Lynn, Mass., the Ellis family took tough love to a new level: The basement. With fists flying.
Rashidi and younger sister Rashida absorbed some life lessons along with those punches from older brother Akeem, and both are trying to follow him on the path to stardom. One stop is the USA Boxing National Championships, which conclude Saturday at Northern Quest.
Akeem, now a pro boxer, is “the one who pushed me into boxing,” said Rashidi, a 19-year-old welterweight who is considered to be a contender for the 2016 Olympics.
“Before he pushed me, I didn’t want to come to the gym, but then I fell in love with it.”
So did Rashida, who yearned to play basketball but never grew past 5-foot-3. Like Rashidi, she played youth football, but prefers the one-on-one of the ring.
With her older brothers in her corner, she began boxing at age 9. Mother Beverly had her doubts, said Rashida, now 17, “but now she loves it and she thinks we deserve to be where we’re at right now.”
Rashida is on a three-year-long quest for the next Olympics; she almost made the national team for last year’s world championships, losing to eventual gold-medalist Tiara Brown for her only defeat in 22 bouts.
“I want to get to the Olympics, and I just have to keep training the way I am now and I will get to the Olympics,” said Rashida, a junior in high school who is still balancing boxing and books.
Rashidi helps there, too. “I just wait for her to get out of school and drive her to the gym,” he said.
The work in the ring is often against the guys, including Rashidi. “They (including Akeem, Rashidi and father Ronald) used to train me, push me. And when I slacked, they pushed me harder.”
Rashidi also has a bright future, regardless of whether he goes to the Olympics. A few months ago, he told the Boston Globe he expects to turn pro after a few more bouts. But on Thursday, he pulled his punch.
“I’m uncertain about the future,” he said. “I’m trying to get paid, but now I’ll probably wait another year.
“I need to stay focused and do what I’m doing right now – keep winning.”
Something else happened Thursday: Rashidi dropped a 3-0 decision to Jamontay Clark of Cincinnati in a quarterfinal match at 152 pounds.
Rashida had the day off, but will compete in a semifinal bout today. Rashidi will be in her corner.
“We support each other like a team,” he said, “but it’s closer because we’re a family.”