Rashida Ellis has always been a fighter. From the elementary school playground where she took on her male classmates to her father’s efforts to channel that aggression inside the boxing ring, Ellis’ entrance into the 2020 Summer Olympics has been 15 years in the making.

Over that period, the Massachusetts native developed into one of the top lightweight amateur boxers in the world, boasting a 45-16-0 record in 61 amateur bouts — all while honing her craft and developing a work ethic second to none.

“Boxing goes along with a lot of discipline,” Ronald Ellis, the Team USA boxer’s father, told the Boston Globe. “She could fight in the gym all the time. She got to where she opened the gym and closed it.”

Ellis was named USA Boxing’s 2019 Elite Female Boxer of the Year, the same year she captured a bronze medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. Two years later, she steps onto the Olympic stage as a gold medal favorite alongside the woman who beat her at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira.

The rivalry between Ellis and Ferreira is the major talking point heading into the Olympics Women’s Lightweight Boxing competition. Both fighters enter the Tokyo Games with only one loss in 2021. Though Ellis has only beaten her once in their four bouts, the out fighter has refocused her training to play to Olympic boxing judges’ preferences: punch frequency and accuracy.

“We want her to be more active. When she loses, she’s not throwing enough punches. It’s not because her opponent is a better boxer, it’s because she doesn’t throw enough,” said USA Boxing assistant coach Marc Gargaro. “If she throws enough, no one can beat her.”

Beyond the training tweaks, Ellis views her rise to gold medal status as a sort of serendipitous destiny. The child of Barbados immigrants, Ellis wants to win it all for her supportive parents as much as she does for herself. “My parents’ 41st anniversary is this summer, and I won’t be home for it. My gift to them will be my gold medal,” Ellis said.

Though Women’s Boxing didn’t become an Olympic event until 2012, two years after Ellis made her amateur debut, winning Olympic gold has been her goal from the first time she stepped into the ring in 2006, painting every punch with her trademark exclamation: “boop.”

“‘Boop-boop’ means I’m comfortable … I know I’m hitting you,” Ellis told the Boston Globe. With another high-stakes showdown with Ferreira likely ahead, Ellis will surely have all of her “boops” flying as she brings the rainbow flag into the Olympic ring.

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