Hitting Back

Melissa Ausilio boxes her way to business success

By R.E. Graswich
August 2019

The thing about getting punched in the face, Melissa Ausilio says, is you either like it or you don’t.

Ausilio realized she liked it when she was 21. She was in a boxing ring, wearing boxing gloves and gear, and circling and throwing jabs at her opponent. The experience was thrilling. But a punch in the face was still a punch in the face.

“There’s no middle ground with boxing,” she says. “You learn pretty quickly whether it’s the sport for you or not.”

Seventeen years have passed since the first time Ausilio’s nose connected with a boxing glove. Since then, much has happened.

She has gone from being a high school dropout to earning a Master of Business Administration degree at UC Davis. She has served as a mental health caseworker, gained and lost 70 pounds, and run a life-changing half marathon, which included a jog across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Today she owns and operates Revolheart, a Sacramento business that trains women and girls to box. Revolheart also sells boxing gear designed exclusively for women.

And to prove she’s no fancy MBA who can just talk a good game, she is training to qualify for the U.S. Olympic boxing team at the 165-pound level. She will take her 5-3 amateur record to the USA Boxing Eastern Elite Qualifier tournament in Columbus, Ohio, this October. The goal is the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“I’m 38 years old, so this is it,” she says. “I’m strong and healthy, but I know I can’t turn the clock back. Life is about moving forward, so this is a bittersweet time for me.”

When Ausilio sits at a Downtown coffee shop and talks about her life, she doesn’t present the image of someone who likes to fight.

Her nose is not crumpled. Scar tissue hasn’t formed over her eyebrows. Her voice is gentle and melodious. Her words are filled with philosophical and inspirational references.

She is pragmatic. She knows running a startup business is tough, every bit as difficult as climbing into the ring and throwing punches at somebody who hits back.

Challenges are nothing new for Ausilio. As a child, her family was supported by her father’s carpet business. When Dad added the words “and sons” to the store’s name, she knew the future would shine upon her two brothers, not her.

But financial setbacks and bad decisions wrecked the family business. By then, Ausilio was gone. She left home at 16. Bored by high school but hungry for education, she enrolled in a Southern California community college and eventually graduated with a degree in women’s gender and sexuality studies from Long Beach State.

“It took me 10 years to graduate,” she says. “And of course all I heard was, ‘What job are you going to get with that degree?’”

She moved to Reno and began working in mental health assessment, but realized she would need a master’s degree in social work to advance. She earned an advanced business degree instead.

While there were long gaps in her boxing career, she never abandoned her love for the game. With the half-marathon success, she proved to herself she could get back into shape. In the gym, the extra 70 pounds melted away.

She decided boxing was the perfect world, providing personal fulfillment, business opportunities and the chance to help others, especially women and girls.

“Boxers are wounded people,” she says. “But there is so much potential in the sport. I know it’s dangerous, but it’s also addictive. When you love something, you can’t just stop.”

Learn more about Revolheart boxing at revolheart.com.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at regraswich@icloud.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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