No longer the whipping post for older mean girls, Kaliesha ?La Silvestre? West is taking out frustrations from former tormentors inside the boxing ring. Mean girls watch out.
As a little nine-year-old girl Kaliesha West was often ridiculed and assaulted for being a child of mixed ethnicities by older girls. They never gave a reason. Some girls are just plain mean.
Times have changed. Now West does all the beating but she still remains a gentle person outside the ring. But mean girls really get under West?s skin. It drives her.
Being a multi-racial child was not easy for West (12-1-2, 3 KOs) and it doesn?t get easier when facing South Carolina?s Angel Gladney (6-2, 5 KOs) for the vacant WBO bantamweight title on Saturday Sept. 18 at the Staples Center.
With her high cheekbones, bronze skin and near perfect athletic build you can visualize her African American, Mexican and one-eighth Korean ancestry. She?s also very accessible to all people regardless of race or ethnicity.
?I?m a people person,? says West, who regularly converses with friends worldwide on a social Internet network. ?I love to socialize.?
Once inside her boxing gear she shifts from that friendly engaging personality to a woman with anger as her eyes narrow, brow furls and body posture changes into a crouch. She?s like a jungle cat ready to pounce.
Juan West, her father and trainer, says she gets that competitive nature from her grandmother who was an Olympic runner decades ago. ?She?s just like her.? And when she erupts into a brawling style the father calls that ?her Mexican side? as she sometimes prefers to slug it out with opponents.
All these variables make Kaliesha West.
?When I was younger I lived in low-poverty apartments and areas. I would get along good with the boys,? said West, 22, who lives in Moreno Valley and trains in Riverside. ?But when it came to the girls in my apartment they never liked me. They would just be mean to me and hated me. I was called ?Oreo,? ?fake black? or ?black wannabe? by them.?
Once, 13 years ago, while walking with her brother and cousin, a group of older kids pinned down West and she was beaten severely by an older girl. That was just one instance.
?I felt weak, I felt helpless and angry inside,? remembers West. ?I hated being multi-cultural and wished I was just one ethnicity. But it taught me how mean people can be in this world. And how to protect myself at all times.?
She began training to be a boxer by her father who didn?t want her to pursue the sport. But after constant badgering he relented and now, 11 years later, she?s on the verge of becoming the Riverside area?s first world champion. In the last decade her skills have improved steadily where she is recognized by many including a computerized boxing web site as the number one bantamweight contender in the world without a world title.
?I never pictured myself a boxer or fighter. I have always been a nice girl,? says West who maintains friendships with school chums.
Some say West is too nice and too trusting of people. But she would rather error on the side of niceness. It?s her nature.
The niceness disappears inside the boxing ring where she?s proven to be a formidable prizefighter in places like Denmark and Peru. Once that bell rings she?s focused like a hawk ready to swoop down on its prey.
?I love Kaliesha?s dedication and drive,? says Claudia Ollis who serves as marketing manager for West. ?She has a way of making boxing a bit more exciting.?
Over the years the girl fighter known as ?Wild Wild? West or ?La Silvestre? has built up an army of friends throughout the years and looks forward to seeing them at her fight.
?It?s just as important as the fight itself,? said West. ?I?m looking forward to all of my people from even childhood stages to come out and support me.?
Ironically, even her former childhood enemies like those that beat her up serve a purpose.
?Some opponents give me that sheer flashback of the girl that beat me up,? West said with sincerity. ?I always felt the need to get revenge after learning how to fight.?
Every so often West sees a girl fighter who resembles the older mean girls that tormented and assaulted her when she was a meek unsuspecting child. It raises the fight factor all the way to 10 on the revenge factor.
Mean girls watch out.
Golden Boy card
For tickets to see Kaliesha West vs. Angel Gladney go to Ticketmaster.com and enter the special code word ?WILDWEST? to obtain discount ticket prices. You can also call Ticketmaster by phone at (800) 745-3000 and say ?Wild West? to receive discount.
Also fighting on the same card as West will be Pomona?s Sugar Shane Mosley against East L.A.?s Sergio Mora; Saul ?Canelo? Alvarez facing Carlos Baldomir; Victor Ortiz battling Vivian Harris and Daniel Ponce De Leon fighting Antonio Escalante.
Fights on television
Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Erik Morales (49-6) vs. Willie Limond (33-2).