The tattoo on Summer Lynn’s left wrist reads “Memories” and the welterweight from Chicago already has a healthy stack of them despite being just 20 years old. (photo by Jenny Alvarez)
“That’s one of my biggest things - to have stories to be able to tell one day and live a life that people don't really have,” she said. “I want to live the life that's not a normal life.”
Oh, it’s far from normal. Sure, there are plenty of 20-year-old prizefighters, but when you’re talking about those who have been involved in combat sports since the age of seven, that list gets a lot shorter.
Boxing wasn’t Lynn’s first love, though. And she admits that she found her way to wrestling, jiu-jitsu and judo not merely by choice, but by process of elimination.
“I'm really, really bad at other sports,” she laughs. “I'm bad at softball, bad at volleyball, bad at basketball. The only sport I was pretty good at was football, but there's tackling there. (Laughs) I did dance - I have no rhythm, and I can't dance to save my life.”
Can she sing, at least?
“No. I can't sing, nor dance.”
Just like Rocky Balboa. But there weren’t any gloves in her future until after a pankration bout at the age of nine.
“It was basically MMA, but you could hit from the collarbone down,” Lynn recalls. “Then this girl punched me in the face. I got back up and, of course, I wanted to keep fighting. I choked her out and I told my dad, ‘I need to learn how to do my standup. If I'm gonna do MMA, I gotta do this.’ He said, ‘Okay, when you get a little bit older, I'll take you to a boxing gym. You just need to be able to understand a little bit more that you just can't go around punching people in the face.’”
Lynn laughs. Understood. But it wasn’t until she was 11 that dad Ron finally agreed, after a steady stream of requests, to take his daughter to a boxing gym.
“We went all over the city of Chicago and the last place we went to was Rick's gym, Body Shot Boxing Club, and I instantly fell in love with it,”
Rick is Rick Ramos, owner of the gym and better known as the trainer and manager of undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill. McCaskill actually taught the kids’ class Lynn started in, but the first time Lynn sparred, the idea of learning boxing to help her round out her MMA game went out the window. She was all-in on the sweet science.
“When I sparred for the very first time, I was like, ‘I can't hit somebody in the face,’” she said. “And then over time, I was like, ‘This is easy, this is fun, this is really cool.’ Ever since then, I stuck with it. It just felt like home. It felt like I was meant to be there. I found my niche, I really did.”
Lynn was in love, but what most expected to be something the amateur boxer did as a hobby was a lot more than that for the one with the gloves on. And after going 14-2 as an amateur, a stint that included two National titles, a trip to England for McCaskill’s fight with Katie Taylor in 2017 had the teenager dead-set on making the sport her career.
“It was crazy because I was 16 at the time and I was in the background,” she said. “Nobody really noticed me and I got to see the behind the scenes of everything and I got to understand how the boxing business is and what you're gonna do as professionals. She (McCaskill) is the one who made me actually want to become professional. She's a great role model, a great person to look up to, a great person to watch in fights because I do pay attention to what she does, and sometimes I apply what she does to my fighting style. So it's been a pretty good ride, I'm not gonna lie.”
But what happened when she revealed the news of a future pro boxing career to her family? Dad was in. The rest of the fam? It’s complicated.
“Obviously they will support me no matter what because it makes me happy,” she said. “My mom is always worried that I'm gonna get hurt, of course. My sisters, they don't necessarily see it as a career, but they don't really know how far you could actually go with it because nobody else in my family's ever done this before. So yes and no, but they always support me. If it makes me happy, they're okay with it. It's my dream. I'm living my dream. How many 20-year-old can say, yeah, I'm living my dream right now?”
They may say it on social media while on their phones, but Lynn is actually doing it, and that’s worth the sacrifices she’s making to live an uncommon life.
“There's a lot of sacrifice, things that I would want to do as a normal 20-year-old, but I have to look at the bigger picture,” she said. “I always have to look towards the future instead of just at the moment.”
And in a lot of ways, going to the gym every day doesn’t fit the usual definition of sacrifice for Lynn.
“I'm a gym rat,” she said. “I like to go to the gym, I like to work out, I like to pick up heavy things and put them back down and do it again. (Laughs) That's how I always grew up. I was the only girl on my block, so I was always hanging out with the boys and I always had to keep up with them, so it just made me tough. I think that's where it comes from, and also my dad, too. Me and my dad are very close and we always had the love for fighting. It's kinda crazy how I stumbled upon it.”
Lynn turned pro at 18 with a four-round decision win over Jenna Johlin Thompson in October of 2019, and she’s added five wins and three knockouts since. On Saturday, she takes her show on the road to Pomona to face Jaica Pavilus, and while Lynn’s foe isn’t stepping into the ring with a record that would scare any hot prospect at 2-4-1, it is an opportunity for Lynn to get in some work to start 2022 after four wins in 2021, and after this weekend’s bout, she’s not shy about her ambitions.
“I am down to fight,” she said. “I would love to have a next step after this fight with the WBC youth belt, with the silver, maybe fight Kandi Wyatt or Hannah Rankin. I want bigger fights, I want to have a step-up, I want to climb the ladder, and I want to show what Summer Lynn can do. I want to make a name for myself. I want to leave a mark on this world.”