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Jalyssa Cornell uses brawns and brains in the ring

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Lathrop teenager Jalyssa Cornell is 9-0 as amateur boxer and preparing for the biggest fight in her young career.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED July 27, 2017 11:42 p.m.

MODESTO — Jalyssa Cornell has been penalized for overpowering her opponents in the past.

Formerly a martial artist, the 16-year-old from Lathrop was disqualified twice in point-sparring tournaments.

“That’s why I transitioned to boxing,” she said. “I found out I wouldn’t get disqualified for hitting too hard.”

She’s not all muscle, however. What makes her special, says Bad to the Bonz 7th Street Boxing Gym owner and trainer Tony Avila, are her intelligence and work ethic. She’ll look to put all of her skills on display in her next two bouts.

Cornell (9-0) will first compete in the “Battle Royale” at Kings Gym in Oakland on Saturday when she faces Essence Pruitt of Sacramento in a rematch. Then on Sept. 2, she’ll head to Pacifica for the Beautiful Brawlers VIII and tangle with Iowan Sophia Haroutunian.

“She’s got that firepower,” Avila said of Cornell. “For some kids, you need something to motivate them. Not her. She knows what she wants and she’s a winner. She excels at everything she does.

“Real talk, she’s going to go all the way,” he added. “She’s fully focused on everything she does. She analyzes everything, and that’s why she does so well at school, too.”

Cornell takes her studies as seriously as she does boxing. She’ll be a junior at Middle College High School at San Joaquin Delta College, where she will gain her high school and associate degrees upon graduating. She’s a 4.0 student in high school, and her college grade point average stands at 3.7.

“She’s very hard on herself when it comes to grades,” her mother Esmeralda Cornell said. “She does that on her own. I’m just amazed by her. She’s very inspirational. Her family loves her and is very proud, and we just want her to keep striving.”

Most days are busy for the Cornells. Jalyssa goes to school in Stockton and trains in Modesto. Both of her parents, including father Henry, are regulars at Avila’s gym. Her younger siblings, Henry, 11, and Persais, 7, also train there.

Jalyssa enjoys the exhausting routine.

“I’m used to it,” she said. “I know nothing else. I have a week break from school right now and I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s always good to be busy. It’s nice to have goals and pursue it.”

Cornell won her first amateur fight in February of 2016 and has taken off from there. She used her physical tools to overwhelm her opponent but has since become an ardent student of the sweet science.

She has a tough time describing her style of boxing, because her approach changes for every match.

“I adjust to my opponents,” she said. “It’s more of a challenge and I like that. Anybody can throw a punch, but I like learning the technique and different styles. In boxing, you can always learn more things. You can keep improving.”

Cornell isn’t overlooking her familiar opponent this Saturday despite beating her previously. It’s an important tune-up match for the bigger one to come. Haroutunian is also undefeated and is No. 1 on the USA Boxing Junior Women’s Rankings in the 154-pound division.

“I always put a lot of pressure on myself when I fight, but for this one I really want to do well,” Cornell said. “It’s going to be the first all-girls tournament that I’m going to be in.”

Cornell has her goals set high. With college credits already in the bank, she aims to obtain a master’s degree. She also wants to compete in the Olympics and fight professionally.

“Just because you’re a girl it doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” she said. “Don’t let your gender or anything else hold you back. Don’t be afraid to try new things because you never know if you’ll be good at it if you don’t try.”

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