Kaliesha West hasn't thrown a punch in anger in years, but she was fighting mad about a month ago. 

Her 11-year-old nephew was being bullied in school, and these days, bullying goes hand-in-hand with a video, so when the former two-division world champion and 2023 inductee into the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame got wind of it, the fighter came out of her again.

Some would say it never left. Always feisty, in and out of the ring, West had seemingly settled into retirement as a 35-year-old married mother of two, but blood is blood, and hers was boiling.

“I found out it was way worse than I had thought,” she said. “I just had that video, so when I talked to him, I said, ‘Look, I said, before I post anything, I need to know your side of the story. I need to know what the heck's going on. Even though I know my nephew's a good kid, you just never know. Kids will be kids.” 

Turns out, the video of the older student pushing West’s nephew down to the floor was the second incident. The first took place a month before – this time, he was knocked out by a different student. West found that out when the assailant in that incident messaged her after she posted the video on her Instagram account.

“The kid who beat him, who knocked my nephew out, he said, ‘I just want to say I'm sorry. I was the one that got suspended a month ago for punching your nephew in the face,’” West recalled. “And I was like, why did you do that? And he said, ‘Because he was annoying me.’ And I said, a lot of people are annoying in the world and you don't go to punching tactics or you'll never be nothing. You'll never do nothing with your life. And this little kid was like, ‘I know. That's what my mom said.’ And he was so apologetic.”

That kid got a suspension, so did the other, and when he arrived back at school, he was required to hold a sign outside the school that said, “Be Kind.” 

This is 2023, so that’s not surprising. Also not surprising is the fact that it took West reposting that video to get the school to wake up and get involved. That’s not okay, especially when bullying isn’t just a rite of passage anymore, but something that can lead children to suicide. West’s own family when through that kind of tragedy when her nephew’s older brother committed suicide, and she wasn’t about to lose another nephew.

So while traveling from Texas back to her native California, her father Juan in tow ready to throw down and clean house was always an option, the first order of business was making sure her nephew was okay. And he is. Back in school as if nothing happened, she describes him as a “care-free spirit,” and that’s good news for all involved.

“I was going through finals with school, so I haven't called my nephew, but I did check in with him in the weeks following, and I was like, ‘How are things? Are you back in school?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ Any problems? ‘No, none at all.’ That's all I wanted to hear.”

West knows what it’s like to be bullied, having gone through plenty of it herself when she was growing up.

“I was bullied even in high school,” she said. “People would call me weird. When I was little, I got jumped because I had curly hair, then I got picked on a lot for being light-skinned. I got called Oreo, I got called wanna-be Black, wanna-be Mexican. And then the worst thing that ever happened to me is a group of girls just went to me and jumped me for no reason when I was nine years old. No reason. They just jumped me and were calling me all kind of names for having curly hair. And I got beat the hell up.” 

By the time West reached high school, the bullying continued, but she had more pressing matters on her mind thanks to her budding amateur boxing career. West, trained by her dad, had gotten so good so fast that when she won the Golden Gloves, a story in The Press-Enterprise made sure that nothing would ever be the same again.

“The guy's name was Guy McCarthy,” said West. “He wrote a story that pretty much changed my life forever in Moreno Valley, California. It was on the front cover of The Press-Enterprise. And it had a picture of me walking through the halls of my high school and said how I took home the Golden Gloves title. And then when you open it up, there was like six pages more to read about how I won the Golden Gloves. And after that, every football player, every cheerleader, everybody in the school would go, ‘What's up, champ? Hey, champ.’ And nobody knew my name. They just knew me as champ.” 

Not everyone was on board the champ’s bandwagon, though, especially not the classmate who stole her hat out of the locker room. West told her dad. He told his daughter to get her respect and take care of business. Off-campus, of course.

West listened to her father’s advice.

“I went up to the girl that everybody said stole it, and I said, ‘Hey, meet me in the trails after sixth period so I can knock you out,’” West laughs. 

Sixth period ended. The school was waiting. And… 

“She ended up paying me $20 and still denied it,” said West. “She said, ‘I didn't steal your hat, but I'll pay you $20 if you drop it.’ And I said, okay.”

It was West’s first purse, and she didn’t even have to fight for it. She laughs, knowing that from that point on, life was different. She can owe it to boxing or to Guy McCarthy, but whatever it was, she never looked back. She turned pro in 2006, went 17-2-3, won a pair of world titles, and is one of those boxers who was ahead of her time. Simply put, if West’s era was today, she would be with Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Alycia Baumgardner and Seniesa Estrada as a true superstar of women’s boxing. But she’s not worrying about What Ifs. There’s too much going on in the present for that – final exams, family life, and a hall of fame acceptance speech to write. All good stuff, and she’s more than qualified to dish out some advice to anyone being bullied.

“I hate knowing that it happens,” West said. “So anybody who's getting bullied, number one, I would tell them to keep track of everything that's happening; write it all down, and always immediately tell a superior. And if nothing's done, don't wait. Don't think it's going to go away. Don't think if you're nice, they're going to stop because it's not a problem with you; it's a problem with them. And who knows when they are going to decide to fix themselves. So don't wait for the bully to change because they don't usually change. And you prioritize yourself. And if somebody doesn't do anything about it, you let the next person know. And if the next person doesn't do anything, let the next person know. You always go up the chain of command and just work on what's best for you. And don't worry about what anybody else has to say. Don't worry about anybody else because nobody else cares more about yourself than yourself. You’re going to be your biggest advocate.”