Giselle Salandy is the world’s greatest boxer that you’ve never heard of. The native of Trinidad & Tobago is considered the foremost female boxer in the sport’s history. This piece chronicles her life, career, and
Life is full of tragic stories regarding young, talented individuals that the world lost too soon. While these tales evoke depressing emotions, it is important for writers to tell them and readers to learn about them. Giselle Salandy was a young and athletic woman from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Her story is a classic example of a beautiful life cut tragically short. She was a gifted physical specimen, with an internal flaw that would one day contribute to her untimely death. Her meteoric rise to fame, accomplishments as a boxer, and final days are recounted below.
Giselle was born Joenette Giselle Salandy on January 25, 1987 in the town of Siparia, Trinidad & Tobago. Little is known about her parents, except the fact that her mother (Maur een) died when Salandy was just 11. The young girl was taken in by a family friend, Ivy Corian, who cared for her until she was 14. During her youth, she attended St. Bridgid’ s Girls ’ RC School, Penal Junior Secondary School, and finally, Fyzabad Composite School.
Growing up in and around the city of Fyzabad, Giselle took an inter est in a sport that mo st girls do not contemplate, boxing. Shortly after her mother died, she felt an urge to explore the boxing ring. She was intrigued by the boxing training that occurred at a local fitness facility, the White Eagle Gym. The gym was owned by Fitzroy Richards, a boxing trainer and promoter.
Just a few weeks prior, Giselle had broken her left arm in a fall from her bicycle. Despite having her arm in a plaster cast (and experiencing pain with each punch), Giselle began working on the punching bag like the older boxers in the gym. Her dogged determination caught the eye of Kim Quashie, a former boxer. In recalling that day, Quashie noted that it was not only her proper form in front of the punching bag that impressed, but also the fact that she confronted a boy in the gym who had mocked her. The fact that she was doing all of this with a broken arm was enough to convince Quashie that Giselle was something special.
Under the guidance of Quashie and Richards, she began training to become a professional boxer. It wouldn’t be long before this young girl would turn into a self-described, “Beast in the ring.”
A Young Debut
Trinidad & Tobago does not license boxers under the age of 17 to fight in the ring, but this did not stop Giselle, Quashie, and Richards from launching her career at a very young age. Using a fake birth certificate that listed her age as 17, Giselle fought her first professional bout on February 25, 2000 in Port of Spain. She was just 13 at the time, but managed to secure a knockout victory over fellow debutant Nimba Wahtuse in the 3rd round.
She would compete in four more bouts over thecourse of the next year. In subsequent matches she defeated Wahtuse in a rematch (again by KO), earned a decision over Ria Ramnarine, defeated Ann Howard by 2nd round KO, and earned a decision over Erica Benjamin. It was at this point in time that the Trinidad Boxing Commission (TBC) realized her true age, and banned her from competing until she was 17.
World’s Greatest Female Boxer
Giselle didn’t let the TBC’s decision derail her career. She took herself offshore, competing in her next fight on the island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. After a victory via KO in that match, she went on to compete in a bout in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In that fight, she earned yet another victory.
When she was only 14, she fought and defeated Paola Rojas to become the youngest person to win a boxing title. Her victory earned her the Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) IBERO title.
Giselle was made an honorary citizen of Curacao after defeating Rojas in this bout in Willemstad. At this point in her career, she was forced into a two-year layoff. The TBC’s refusal to issue her a professional license, and a lack of scheduled bouts offshore, led to the break in her career.
When she resumed her boxing in January 2004, she brought her ferocity back to the ring with a vengeance. In her first match back, she defeated Rojas in a rematch to retain her WIBA IBERO title, with a unanimous decision. Throughout the course of her boxing career, she collected a total of eight title belts in the ring. These titles included belts from WIBA, the World Boxing Association (WBA), and World Boxing Council (WBC).
In what would prove to be her final fight, Giselle defeated Yahaira Hernandez of the Dominican Republic in a 10-round unanimous decision on December 26, 2008. That date, ironically, was the Boxing Day holiday in Trinidad & Tobago. With that victory, Giselle successfully defended her WIBA, WBC, and WBA titles, and pushed her career record to 17-0 (6 KOs).
Just nine days after her successful title defence, Giselle was driving a rented Toyota Yaris on the Beetham Highway into Port of Spain when her vehicle crashed into a concrete pillar. She was heading into the city a little before 7:00 a.m. when she reportedly lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a pillar supporting the National Petroleum overpass.
She was rushed to Port of Spain General Hospital, but she died from her injuries at 8:29 a.m. on January 4, 2009. She was just 21. In the days and weeks following her death, the public learned about a tragic flaw that contributed to the death of this beloved national figure. Giselle suffered from a blood disorder, a condition which prevents blood
from clotting in the body.
During her accident, she suffered massive internal injuries that led to severe internal bleeding. It has been reported that a primary artery in her lower body was punctured as a result of a crushed pelvis in the accident. It later came to light that a few people in Giselle’s inner circle were aware of her condition. She had been forced, at times, to reschedule fights in her career because of her medical problem.
Giselle’s star shone bright while she was alive. Though it burned out too early, she has not been forgotten by the boxing world or the people in her home country. Prior to her death, she was awarded the Chaconia Gold Medal in 2007 from the nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Boxrec still lists Giselle as the #1 Female Light Middleweight boxer in the sport’s history. Finally, in August 2009 she was awarded the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The medal is the highest national award available, and she became the first boxer in Caribbean history to receive such a prestigious award.