Four years ago, Jennifer Moreale had never picked up a set of boxing gloves in her life, so she had no idea how much she’d love it.

When she was little, she’d fill a duffel bag, hang it up and use her pink and black ski gloves to punch it.

She was always pushed away from the sport though.

“You’re going to break your nose,” someone would say.

“It’s not a female sport,” others would tell her.

Nevertheless, when the Udine, Italy, native came to the U.S. for her college education, she picked up the sport. While at Loyola University New Orleans, Moreale started training. Last year, when she came to West Virginia University to pursue her doctorate in economics, she put on the gloves and competed for the first time.

Earlier this year, she won the University’s first female boxing championship. More recently, she was named the second-best novice boxer in her weight class. She’d really like to be first and will continue her quest to make it to the next Olympic games.

“Boxing is just part of me. I’d say this is what I’m made for. It’s the sport that matches my strengths,” she said. “Being a female boxer, you can sometimes be underestimated. The immediate reaction is, ‘Oh, I’m fighting a girl.’ That fires me up. It’s not a reason to underestimate me,” she said. “Once we get in the ring and start sparring, they always change their mind.”

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