One little Kona girl has a big dream — to make it to the Olympics and win a gold medal in boxing.
Eight-year-old Wailei‘a Duarte started telling her mom she wanted to learn to box when she was only 5.
“When she was 4 years old, she was always putting up her dukes with her older brothers,” said her mom, Tiana Taniguchi.
Her grandmother also knew about her desire to box and approached Timothy Williams, founder of Golden Gloves — “Education is Worth the Fight” nonprofit and former boxer, asking him to train her.
Although Williams at first was hesitant, he agreed to meet Duarte and knew in his heart that this little girl had the determination and will to pursue her dream.
“I was scared and nervous about her doing this,” Taniguchi said. “But when I came and met coach I said ‘he’s the one. We will do this.’”
They met for the first time on Duarte’s seventh birthday.
“It was the best day ever,” Duarte said.
Williams said Duarte is the only keiki he is training. His nonprofit takes him around the country speaking to students about the importance of education and following their dreams. He is also a youth pastor who is passionate about teaching kids how to avoid drugs and being abused.”
“I met her and told myself this is the girl version of me. I want to train her,” Williams recalled. “She is focused and has the talent.”
Williams had been training Duarte in the basics when COVID hit. They had not been meeting in person after the start of the pandemic, however Williams gave her “homework” to do.
Taniguchi said the Kealakehe Elementary School second grader is a very good student both at school and with boxing.
“She’s a big helper around the house,” she said. “When her homework is finished and her chores are done she practices her boxing.”
The family even hung a punching bag and full length mirror on their lanai for her to hone her skills. Her father encourages her by putting on boxing mitts and having her throw jabs at him.
“My big dream is to be a pro boxer,” Duarte said. “I want to show off my skills.”
Williams said that dream and her discipline will make her road to success smooth.
“I teach her that if she does extra she will rise above other boxers,” said Williams “God willing I will still be here and coaching when she makes it.”