Jelena Mrdjenovich isn’t one to stand down from a fight, and if anyone tells her she can’t do something, she’ll prove them wrong.
The future eight-time boxing world champion suffered an injury while playing for the Pandas basketball team, and started watching boxing in her recovery. She joked with her dad how much money professional boxers make for one night. “He goes, ‘Honey, it’s not that easy. I bet that you couldn’t do it.’”
Mrdjenovich walked into a boxing gym for the first time at 19 years old to prove her dad wrong and immediately fell in love with the sport. Her dad was right about one thing — it wasn’t easy — but that didn’t stop her. She dropped out of school, went pro in 2003 and won her first world championship belt two years later. “Boxing has given me the courage to not put up with any BS from anybody and it’s given me an outlet to release all the emotional and mental things that would harbour.”
Mrdjenovich wanted to give others the opportunity to feel empowered without the discomfort she experienced as a beginner. She opened Champs Boxing, a group fitness/boxing studio, in 2018, and the studio has become a safe space for everyone.
“Changing the past and creating a future for women’s boxing isn’t an easy task. It’s a constant challenge,” says Mrdjenovich.
This article appears in the Winter 2022 issue of Edify