NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent is never alone when she’s in the ring, and she’s no longer afraid to tell others who else she’s fighting besides her opponent.
Toughness did not come easy for this super bantamweight fighter, who’s 12-0 and about to fight for a world title. No one’s ever knocked her down or drawn blood during a bout, but thinking back to what motivates her can draw tears.
“Pretty much the one thing that makes me happy is to know that I’m helping somebody,” she says with tears just starting to well up in her eyes. “I’m not afraid to cry. It’s how you get things out.”
When the undefeated former amateur champion is not training or boxing, she volunteers as a speaker at local schools to talk about what she used to hide 23 years ago.
“I was worried about what the kids would say about me at school,” she says. “I was protecting my mother because she was finally happy. And she wasn’t crying every day, she wasn’t getting hit. I didn’t want to hurt her again.”
Vincent says she survived a childhood of physical abuse, and then at 13 she was sexually assaulted by the same man multiple times. She later turned to drugs to ease her pain, taking up boxing as she fought her way into recovery.
“When you fight me that night, you’re fighting everybody left behind,” she says. “You’re fighting the guy that sexually assaulted me. You’re fighting all my demons that night. That’s why it’s hard to beat me.”
Vincent, who describes herself as a relentless pressure fighter, has earned a UBF super bantamweight title match on November 7, and she expects to bring home the belt. Her training is grueling from a cardiovascular standpoint, and she adds the touch of sparring with men, saying it makes fight night easier.
“They’re in there. They’re cracking me. They’re trying to hurt me. Especially when you crack a guy, they’re coming in, they’re trying to put you down. They don’t like being hit by a girl,” she says. “Anything to make the fight easy.”
As grueling and difficult as her preparation is, she says it can be even harder to convince sexual assault and abuse victims to step forward. Vincent’s story apparently works since she’s already heard from students who reported crimes committed against them after hearing Vincent talk about what happened to her.
“And they say, you saved my life. You proved to me that there’s hope,” Vincent says. “That’s why I do it all. That’s all that matters, to come forward, to go talk to somebody, and just let it out. You can’t hold it in. It kills you inside. I want to be that one person for one of those kids if not for all of them that I wish was there for me.”
Shelly joined The Rhode Show Monday to talk more about her incredible story.