By Kirra Grimes
A LEONGATHA schoolgirl is making her mark in the male dominated sport of boxing, kicking off her career by winning two out of her first three fights.
Fourteen-year-old Kinesha Anderson is one of only a handful of female boxers at the Leongatha-based Corner Inlet Boxing Club (CIBC), and is on her way to becoming one of its most exciting young talents.
Competing in the schoolgirl/junior class, she won her first ever fight in Adelaide in April this year, in front of a 400-plus crowd.
A bout of illness saw her defeated in her second fight, a month later in Pakenham; but she was back on winning form for her third, just a couple of weeks ago in Mount Gambier.
With help from her dad and CIBC coach Brad Anderson, and other mentors like Scott Bindloss and Christian ‘Pistol’ Gray, Kinesha will take the lessons learned from each of these fights to the Victorian Titles and the National Titles, which she’s qualified to compete in at the end of the year.
In the meantime, she’ll get some more good practice under her belt travelling with her club up to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in September to compete against a team from New Zealand; as well as regularly attending the Gippsland Sports Academy at Moe for expert advice on strength, conditioning and nutrition.
The Leongatha Secondary College student admits she hasn’t thought much further ahead in terms of her boxing career, still keen to keep up with schoolwork and a range of other interests, for now.
But she’s enjoying the sport and its fitness benefits so much she can see herself training and fighting into adulthood, she said.
“I started last year to improve my fitness and coordination for netball and just kept going from there,” she told the Sentinel-Times last week.
“It’s a good sport; it’s something different, and it’s a good community.
“With the girls, even though you’ve only just fought them and tried to knock their head off, you have good conversations and become friends.
“But I like doing other sports as well. So, I’m still playing netball, even though I’ve had to miss some games for fights,” said the Leongatha Parrots’ player.
“And I’m still doing dance – one time I had a dance competition and a fight one weekend after the other – so it was ballet one week, boxing the next – which was good, because they actually complement each other!”
Often finding herself fighting the same opponents over and over, and training against the boys in the absence of a female sparring partner, Kinesha would like to see more girls entering the sport, insisting there’s nothing to be afraid of.
“A lot of people think it’s a thug’s sport, but it’s really not,” she said.
“It’s all about technique and it’s very regulated. And we wear head guards, so it’s very rare that you get a serious injury – the worst I’ve had is a split lip or a blood nose.”
But it does require a high level of commitment and self-discipline, with training two to three times a week at a minimum, strict diets, and interstate travel all par for the course.
“People think it’s easy, but it’s definitely not,” Kinesha said.
“You have to be super fit; you have to be able to take punches and throw them; and be on your toes the whole time.
“I’ve had to lose or gain weight for all my fights – for the first fight I had to cut two kilos, so that involved a lot of saunas, sweat suits, and salads.
“But then for the second fight I had to go up in weight.
“It’s pretty hard [to keep the right weight] because I’m still growing in height, so when I have a fight coming up in a month, I just have to hope I don’t have a growth spurt!”
But there is one advantage of the lack of girls in the sport – as one of the rare female fighters, Kinesha enjoyed instant celebrity status, even before she’d officially set foot in the ring.
“At my first fight in Adelaide, there were only two girls’ fights out of 28 fights for the day, so this little girl came up to me before the fight and asked for a photo and told me about how she wanted to be a boxer.
“And then when I won I could hear her yelling out. So that was a nice feeling,” she said.