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Knocking Out Gender Stereotypes

Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza is the girl in pink who will kick your butt.

What does playing like a girl look like? It’s Kelley O'Hara's hustle during the World Cup. It’s the strength, passion and determination of principal dancer Misty Copeland. It's Becky Hammon making waves in the NBA. And it looks like Marlen Esparza, the 25-year-old boxer who plays by her own rules and is inspiring a new generation of strong, powerful female boxers. Marlen is the first female to win a medal at the Olympic Games for the U.S. in boxing and is representing the states in the Pan American Games that kicked off on Friday.

But climbing to the top of her game in a male-dominated sport wasn’t easy, she tells ESPN in the video above. “My drive as a female boxer is: One, that I just like to win, I don’t want to get beat up; and two, I really honestly believe that my purpose as a female boxer is to help transition the gender role in what’s supposed to be going on it boxing.”

To prepare for the games — and the Summer Olympics in Rio next year — Marlen has been working with a new coach. "The drills that I do with Paul are extremely different from anything that I've done before. I've being doing things wrong for 13 years and we're trying to break those bad habits," she explains. That means focusing on rotations to help with strike power, keeping her hips open and not slouching.

"In the Pan Am games I don't plan to just win, I plan to dominate," she says — and we're cheering for you!

Learn more about Marlen Esparza's story in the video above.

More From SELF:
• Olympic Boxer Marlen Esparza’s Pre-Match Mantra
• Ballerina Misty Copeland Made History Today
• This Superstar Soccer Player Shows Us How To #PlayLikeAGirl (Bloody Nose and All)
• Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers Reunite To Passionately Defend Women’s Sports

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky