In this exclusive feature, we shine a spotlight on the remarkable story of Shelly Vincent, a true champion who has overcome tremendous obstacles throughout her life. From a childhood marred by abuse, poverty, and loss to becoming a renowned boxer and influential mentor, Shelly’s journey is a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of sport.
Raised in a turbulent environment marked by trauma, Shelly found solace and purpose in the world of boxing. It served as a therapeutic outlet, allowing her to channel her emotions and find stability amidst adversity. Undeterred by the male-dominated landscape of the sport and the skepticism she faced, Shelly persevered and achieved remarkable success, winning the 2011 National Golden Gloves 119-pound title and earning accolades for her extraordinary fighting spirit.
Beyond her boxing career, Shelly’s commitment to giving back to her community is evident through her coaching and mentoring endeavors. By guiding adults and children from diverse backgrounds, she has provided them with an alternative path, offering hope, confidence, and strength. Now, as she opens her own gym and prepares to host an all-female amateur boxing tournament, Shelly continues to be a beacon of inspiration, empowering the next generation to rise above adversity and find their own resilience.
Join us as we delve into Shelly Vincent’s inspiring journey, celebrating her indomitable spirit and unwavering dedication to making a positive impact.
Can you tell us about your experience as a survivor of abuse and how it has shaped your life?
When I was a child, my mother and I were abused. My mother was worse than me, beaten severely almost every night. At times we even had guns pointed and waved in our faces. I was hung from the walls by my neck until unconscious or almost and hit starting back to about the age of 7. The abuse made me a very insecure child confused about love and affection. I grew up thinking if I wasn’t yelled at or hit it wasn’t love, because that was is all I saw growing up. I was so confused and I was also scared of every man I encountered except my grandfather. I begged my mother to allow me to box. She told me: “they don’t have that for girls” But after seeing me so sad and depressed, she offered to move me to NY so I could find a place that would accept women.
We found Whaling City Boxing in Waterford CT and that’s where my boxing began. Fast forward to a few years later, my mom’s new boyfriend enters the picture. At first, he seemed to be the sweetest, nicest guy I ever met. The whole time he was telling me what I NEEDED to hear, doing things that a father is supposed to do and making me feel safe an loved. But it turned out he was setting me up: grooming me and eventually, he sexually assaulted me.
After a long spiral downhill of depression, suicide attempts, drugs & alcohol and prison bids… The only thing that kept me alive was boxing.
On my mother’s death bed, she begged me “Baby promise me you’ll never stop boxing…this is your way out. This is how you save yourself” And it did I can honestly say that without all that dark shit I would of never found boxing and that was the therapy I always needed
Who has been your biggest source of inspiration throughout your life?
Definitely my mother. I watched her go through all that abuse and still smile, stay strong and mother us. She always made sure we were good. She always gave her best to us; no matter how bad it was (and it got bad) she was always smiling and laughing. She was so beautiful inside and out. Later, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Looking back now as an adult, I realize how bad and hard and how much pain she was in. But through it all she was always smiling and trying to make us feel at ease. I definitely get my strength and grit from my mother. My moms a warrior, a fighter and a survivor and she gave me that spirit.
Can you talk about a particularly memorable fight or moment in your boxing career?
My first fight at Coney Island Amphitheater. It was the first woman’s nationally televised fight since Christy Martin, Laila Ali time and the first time on NBC on PBC in history. We had more views than Errol Spence that night. Leading up to this was a lot of pressure on us to promote the fight and sell tickets. They said getting the numbers we promised them, would make or break WOMEN’s boxing. My whole career i fought (vocally) for equality and women’s rights for equal pay and time featured on television. Before then in my career, I was looked over.
They said i wouldn’t make it. Said sex sells and all the other stupid shit.. . So to be one of the voices that was in the ring that night felt incredible. The beef was real. We sold the arena super heavy then did it again for a rematch at MSG on HBO. And what I’m proud of is that I did it by being my authentically extra, cartoonish, openly gay self. I wanted to show the other women like me that may have struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression, …the misfits, …I showed that you can just be yourself .. Recently, I found out that I will be the FIRST women fighter ever inducted into the CT Boxing Hall of Fame. I was one of the first women to fight on national TV in this era, first in the women’s spread in Ring Magazine …I DID A LOT A FIRST IN THIS ERA. tI might not be Katie Taylor, or Amanda Serrano but my mother is definitely up there smiling big at the woman I became ….I really wish she was here to see though. We didn’t think I’d make it to 21
What message do you want to send to young girls who aspire to become professional boxers?
Always be your truest self. Speak your mind and give it your all… You belong here .. BE YOURSELF This is the era for women in boxing. Everything is changing there is a place for you in this sport… if you work hard for it it is attainable and it can change your life financially and mentally whatever you need it for… DREAM BIG, REACH BIG, YOUR TIME WILL COME! SO WORK YOUR HARDEST
How do you plan to expand your gym and tournament in the future?
Opening a second gym in my hometown New London CT. Running programs for inner city youth, Parkinson’s programs and Women self-defense seminars …
My goal is to grow the tournament each year making it bigger an better. My hope is to one day have the tournament backed by USA Boxing which would mean it would allow for ranking in the boxing world. This is my first show. I was a heavy tick seller as a pro and now that I’m retired, I’m hoping my fans and family will come out and support my fighters and all the young, strong, female fighters at the show. I throw for the upcoming future pros and world champions …
Can you talk about any partnerships or collaborations you have formed to support your gym and tournament?
Right now, my old trainer is I are working together, merging our two gyms. I train all the fighters and he handles the classes.. I learned everything from him, so it’s great to work together again. I organized the tournament with Whaling City Athletic Center and help from a few friends. My vision was to get strong professional women in the game to support it and sponsor it. Ebanie Bridges was the first to get behind it, with no hesitation in supporting the youth and empowering women. She’s a huge star and world champion living in the UK right now. Jamie “the hurricane” Clampitt, Hall of Famer and Former World Champion is also involved.
Newcomers on the scene, Melanie Costa who recently turned pro and Stevie Coleman will also be in attendance. The WBC was kind enough to gift us with medals for some of the athletes competing ….Exclusive Auto , Girl boxing , Northern Crane an Rigging , Dominica Giordano , Beacon Wines , Ellie’s Jewlers, N.R.Designs, , And Forty Theives are some of the other sponsors. Huge thank you to everyone! Just straight good vibes positive energy and another outlet for women boxers to showcase their talents ..
Music, food and fights WHOS DOESNT LOVE THAT… Something for everyone!
How has your experience as a coach and mentor impacted your life?
It makes me the person I NEEDED so desperately back when I was that kid crying in the closet. The person I wished I had to talk to, to confide in…
I have the blueprint out… I dug myself a grave out of the depression of doubt and naysayers … Victories in and out of the ring…
And to watch these kids and fighters evolve and grow and knowing that I was a part of that process gives me joy and fulfills the part of me I lost when I had to retire… So it’s full circle and keeps me alive.. my life’s purpose was def to work with kids in an out a the ring … A lot of these kids relate to me not all but a lot in a way or some way because I’ve been through it ALL… I need them just as much as they need me