MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
She remembers it like it was yesterday, and to be honest, it pretty much was. She was in fourth grade and her peers were discussing what they wanted to be when they grew up. She answered almost instantly, “I’m going to be a professional boxer.” Laughter broke out, especially from the boys. She hasn’t forgotten.
Now 12-years-old and in 7th grade, Gracy Kennedy still finds nothing funny about her answer. Boxing is her life. Her great-grandfather was a professional boxer and her grandfather boxed in college. Her father Tech. Sgt. Steven Kennedy, Air National Guard member with the 219th Security Forces Squadron, is involved in martial arts and other self-defense sports.
Gracy has only boxed for three years. In that short time, she has quickly rose the ranks in her weight class. She devotes herself to the sport, waking early every morning to run three miles, do push-ups, sit-ups, shadow box and hit the bags. Twice a week her parents drive the nearly two hours to Newtown for sparring. On top of the training, Gracy’s diet is crucial to her success. During training and before competitions, she limits herself to fish and fruit, not an easy feat for a 12-year-old.
“The hardest part is seeing everyone else eating,” Gracy said. “Sometimes I go to the store to get fruit, but then I see the candy aisle and it’s so hard.”
After winning her regional title in Rapid City, South Dakota back in March, Gracy qualified for the 2017 Junior Olympic, Youth Open and Prep National Championships in Charleston, West Virginia in June. She had three months to prepare for her biggest fight to date.
Gracy was nervous when she walked into the arena for her pre-fight weigh-in, hoping and praying the months of training and dieting paid off. She aced the weigh-in and anxiously awaited her fight details from her coach. The news she heard wasn’t expected. Her opponent didn’t make weight, which resulted in an unopposed win.
Initially upset she wasn’t going to fight, Gracy spoke with several coaches at the tournament who assured her she had earned the title. “It takes a champ to make weight,” they told her. Then she realized she was on top, a national champion. The first thought to pop into her head?
“Who’s laughing now?”