‘Fight Like A Girl’ Docu Shows How Women Rise Above Defeat


There are so many amazing female-directed, female-created and female-focused documentaries right now! It seems women are taking the call seriously to infiltrate the movie industry with their stories and we dedicate to sharing as many of these as possible with our readers. A film we recently had the pleasure of watching was ‘Fight Like A Girl’ by Jill Morley.

It is a documentary centered on 4 women including professional boxers Maureen Shea, and Kimberly Tomes, and amateur/soon-to-be-pro boxer Susan Merlucci, who are boxers of varying levels, who open up about their personal lives and experiences which include depression, abuse, adoption, suicide, domestic violence and more. While watching this amazing film, you feel every punch. You feel every emotion that these women go through, whether you have been in their shoes or not. That’s the power of story-telling, the ability to make people feel. It is something women do far greater than men (in our humble opinion) and something that the film industry cannot ignore.

World Champion boxer Melissa Hernandez, who trains Kimberley in the docu, offers a powerhouse performance, giving an insider’s view into the world of professional boxing from a female point of view. You can’t help but be energized to stand up and fight whenever you see Melissa on the screen and how she affects those women around her.

Throughout the visceral journey of ‘Fight Like A Girl’ you start to realize that these stories and these experiences are all of ours. We spoke exclusively with filmmaker Jill Morley, whose journey is also captured in the film, to dig a little deeper about the message, how her childhood affected her desire to get into boxing (7 years and counting), the boxing industry in general, and why the phrase ‘fight like a girl’ isn’t just about sports.


Tell us about the Fight Like A Girl story and how did it come about?

I knew I wanted to compete in a combat sport before I got too old. I started doing Taekwondo in my mid 30’s. However, when we would spar, the instructor told me not to punch because I hit “too hard.” This went on for a few years until I decided I just wanted to punch, found a gym and started boxing. When I met the girls at the gym, I immediately developed girl crushes. I admired their grit, determination, strength and realized we shared a bond of overcoming adversity. Using our physical selves was a huge part of it.

I knew how difficult and expensive it was to make an independent documentary, (I had made one feature documentary already and swore not to do another!) so I really wanted to avoid it, but when I met the women, I was really compelled to tell their stories, and so the shooting began.

Why did you decide to make this documentary?

I knew how difficult and expensive it was to make an independent documentary, (I had made one feature doc already and swore not to do another!) so I really wanted to avoid it, but when I met the women, I really was compelled to tell their stories and the shooting began.


Watching the film makes you want to put on some gloves and box out some of that energy that’s inside all of us! What do you hope people will feel as they watch your journey?

As a young girl, I would have loved to have learned boxing. In the film, my dad (a former boxer in the Marine Corps) was completely against women fighting. Girls “like us” were encouraged to play tennis. We could hit things but be wearing a skirt. I do believe some of us are born with a fighter inside of us. That is not gender specific. It doesn’t mean we all have to box, but it’s great to have that option.

I hope people will be inspired to:

1. Be who they are and not let gender roles or what people think get in the way. As you saw, my husband quit kickboxing and took up modern dance!

2. Believe in yourself and have faith that if you are drawn to learn something, it is for a reason. You may not become amazing at it, but it will teach you something you need to know.

3. This too shall pass. I keep talking about getting a tattoo on my wrist that says this! Even when I am in the worst mood or something tragic happens and I have to go through the grief, I need to remember that the feelings will pass. For those of us who suffer from depression, this is extremely important. In the same vain, great times and good feelings will pass too, so enjoy them in the moment.

4. Don’t stereotype. There are women boxers who are butch, super femme, and all across the spectrum in between. Female fighters can be girly too

5. If you really, really want something, persevere, but learn when it is a time to push anda time to rest and take care of yourself.

6. Women kick ass.


You were very candid in documenting your own journey along the way, including information about how your mother used to hit you, having depression, and attempting suicide. What made you want to share that raw stuff?

Honestly, when I started the film, I didn’t want to talk about myself that much. The plan was to use my character as a through line for structure. I train and compete in the Golden Gloves (the biggest amateur boxing tournament in the world) and during that time, you meet all these amazing women and hear their stories. I never anticipated what happened. When it did, I felt a responsibility to share it. If I didn’t it would be a lie. If I did, I knew other people could probably relate and hopefully, I could help others who have gone through the same think or know people who do.

The other women in the film like Maureen Shea (professional boxer best known for being Hilary Swank’s sparring partner in ‘Million Dollar Baby’) and Kimberley Tomes (professional boxer who was adopted and bullied as a child) all had their own “demons” from their past that they were still dealing with, how did it affect you seeing these other more accomplished women still deal with real stuff like you?

I had a feeling these other women had something inside they were “fighting.” When women fight, it’s not for the money. They don’t make anything significant and usually have to have another job. Something else compels them. Sometimes this is strictly athleticism and competition, but boxing tends to draw women who are survivors in other ways. I wasn’t all that surprised, but I was very interested in telling their stories. I was also inspired that they went through what they did and came out of it. I was fortunate that they wanted to share this knowledge with me and help me in my journey.


Although not all of us are boxers, we all have to fight our way to the top and often receive no recognition or praise. What advice do you give to other women who want to give up at times?

I wish I didn’t have to give advice. By now, one would think that the glass ceiling was a thing of the past. Women in your generation still have to fight to get what they want and usually harder than the men.

Personally, I try not to think about gender when I have a job to do and when I do that, I can be pretty successful. I think competing in sports has helped because I competed with guys and gained their respect as an athlete. Often, I have been the only woman on a film set, in a boxing gym, as a teaching tennis pro, on an improv comedy team or on a corporate shoot. I don’t shy away from the role I am supposed to play whether it is directing or teaching tennis.

That said, it sucks when I’m producing/directing and walk in where we are supposed to shoot, and the owner of the establishment starts asking the camera man what he wants! Calmly, I have to explain that I am the director and conduct myself in a professional manner. But the feelings that go with being blocked by outside limitations have to be expressed. My advice for that is to punch something! Hit the bags! But, then go back and keep asserting yourself professionally in the position that you have. Unfortunately, if you make a big stink over it, it will just reaffirm to the sexist folks that you aren’t able to “handle” such a position.

Former World Champ Melissa Hernandez talks about there being virtually no money in boxing for women, but for men there’s millions of dollars. Why won’t the industry recognize the women’s sports more?

This is still a very old school way of thinking. If you go to a fight that has women on the card, you will see the women fight with such passion and skill, that it becomes the most exciting fight of the night. I have seen this over and over. However, the “old guard” doesn’t want to give them a platform. They still say that “People don’t want to see women fight.” Truthfully, these are usually old guys.

This has recently been proved completely wrong by the women in MMA. Dana White finally allowed women in the UFC. Once he put them on his Ultimate Fighter reality show, the show gained more popularity than it had in years. In fact, the weeks that the women fought, were the most watched fights! Ronda Rousey, his big star, is one of the highest paid fighters in the UFC!

I think younger promoters are starting to realize that they can make money and are putting women on the cards. But, this isn’t happening fast enough.

Also, the women are so used to accepting such low money that they take whatever they can. Their desire to fight is that strong. It will be a combination of female fighters demanding more money after they put on spectacular shows for the promoters, and the promoters realizing what currency the female boxers can bring them for it to change.

As for audiences to become more interested, they just need to see them fight. Their fights need to be televised. If you watch the experienced female boxers fight, there will be no doubt in your mind that they belong in the ring and deserve to be seen.


In the film you lied about your age to enter the Golden Gloves tournament but were eliminated in the first round. Once you finally admitted your age, you won a fight. Do you think there is a lesson in self-acceptance that we could all learn from here?

I only lied about my age because there was an age limitation for the Golden Gloves and I was past it. I really wanted to compete and would not have been able to if I didn’t. My fight went to a decision. In this case, they rightfully decided that my opponent won.

I don’t believe this is an age thing. I was still a beginner and it was my first fight. In my next fight, I fought a 19 year old and beat her. Then, the girl I fought in the film and beat who was closer to my age was still 8 years younger. All through my mid forties, I was very strong and competitive. At 48, I can feel that I am not as strong, not as competitive and it takes me a lot longer to recover. I do accept this and train accordingly. More importantly, I accept that I don’t have the energy the younger female fighters have and am not the kind of fighter who has a “killer instinct.”

I don’t feel like I have anything more to prove. Now, my mission is to train other girls and get them ready for their fights. Alicia Ashley is still a world champion at age 47! She just fought a girl less than half her age a few weeks ago and won by technical knockout!

What makes you a powerful woman?

I still don’t see myself that way. What I do is every time I get knocked to the canvas, I get back up and try again. I try not to compare myself to others and to let things other people say roll off my back, unless it is constructive. I keep striving to be a better, filmmaker, writer, wife, boxer, doggy mom, and person. But, I try to have fun and be grateful for the life that I have.


Aside from being a filmmaker and awesome woman, you also teach boxing classes and are going to be doing some workshops with the Boys and Girls Club in Venice Beach in California, can you tell us a little more about that?

I love teaching the workshops and we have another series starting in the summer. I love giving the girls the opportunity to express themselves in a way they might have felt was “forbidden.”

“Hit the pad as hard as you can, but do it with technique!” I might instruct. That is actually a profound life lesson.

Also, I don’t have my own children and feel a bit of a responsibility to help other people’s children. I love the bonding that takes place with the girls that is not about fashion, looks, or boys. We bond over how strong they are and how much fun we can have boxing.

How do you hope to inspire the next generation of women with your story?

I already see that young girls today are being encouraged to take up jujitsu, martial arts and anything they want to. I hope the film inspires the next generation to keep being who they are, expressing themselves the way they want to, and to not let things that are seemingly overwhelming, overwhelm them.

What does the phrase “fight like a girl” mean to you?

It means fighting with all your heart and soul. It means using everything that has ever kept you down, raise you up. It means you demand respect and own your body. It means you never give up.


Check out the trailer for ‘Fight Like A Girl’ and be sure to visit the FLAG website to find out where you can catch a screening. To keep up with what Jill Morley is doing with the film and her boxing workshops, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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