By Veronica Maldonado

I’m not a fan of boxing. In my eyes, a fight is a defensive mechanism, not a sport.  In fact, the only entertainment I get from a boxing match is watching my best friend's family watch a match. In those occasions, I can chuckle quite a bit. But I found T-Rex, a documentary about a young female boxer showing at the Denton Black Film Festival this weekend, very intriguing.

Claressa gets warm before fighting in the semifinals at the PAL tournament in Toledo, Ohio.  A year ago, Claressa fought her first non-junior amateur fight at PAL, qualifying her to compete in the Olympic Trials, which eventually led her to the Gold Medal in the Olympic Games. This is her right before her first fight since the Olympics. Image from T-Rexthefilm.com: Claressa gets warm before fighting in the semifinals at the PAL tournament in Toledo, Ohio. A year ago, Claressa fought her first non-junior amateur fight at PAL, qualifying her to compete in the Olympic Trials, which eventually led her to the Gold Medal in the Olympic Games. This is her right before her first fight since the Olympics.

Much to the dismay of my girls, I'm a sucker for films that teach life lessons which I in turn share with them. I was hooked with T-Rex because I immediately found it motivating. All of my preconceived notions of what I thought I knew about boxing were obliterated. Including, as my daughter reminded me, that boxing is a guy’s sport. But this is not a story about a sport as much as it is a story about overcoming odds, working hard to reach goals and true, raw emotions.

The documentary introduces us to Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old girl on the road to the 2012 London Olympics. Claressa comes out a true hero as she faces adversity with strong resilience. Some of her harshest realities, including a rough Michigan neighborhood and problematic family relationships, overshadow teenage love and schoolwork. Her most impressive feat is breaking the gender barrier in the boxing world at such a young age.

There is a second hero, in my opinion, which many soccer moms will recognize. Jason Crutchfield, Claressa's coach, trained her since she was 11 years old. Like so many Little League coaches, Jason found success in a sport he loves and chose to pass on his knowledge. Spending countless hours training her, he believed in her and soon became a guiding father figure. In search for a champion, he was surprised to find one in a girl. I wholeheartedly believe his purpose in life was to guide this astonishing young lady. Claressa says it best in the film. They both needed each other to obtain the ultimate goal: a championship.

Coach Crutchfield coaches Claressa Shields during a sparring session at FWC Berston Gym in Flint, Michigan. Image from T-Rexthefilm.com: Coach Crutchfield coaches Claressa Shields during a sparring session at FWC Berston Gym in Flint, Michigan.

I felt many emotions watching T-Rex but I truly loved how Claressa could be so real as she portrayed a female athlete. She was genuine about what she was feeling through her struggles, joys and accomplishments. I saw and felt her anger and frustration as well as her elation and pride.

So which life lessons would I apply and share with my girls?  In T-Rex, a young woman athlete teaches us that color, race or gender are road blocks that fade with hard work and determination.

Mom disclaimer: There is some strong language in this film but for the sake of the life lessons, I would be willing to allow my 9-year-old to watch.  Try not to be too judgmental of me. 

T-Rex runs 91 minutes and will be shown on Saturday as part of Film Block 4 at 4:20 p.m. To see the full Denton Black Film Festival schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.