By Daniel Smart
You’re road to the WIBA super fly world title was a tough one Sylvia, after a loss and a draw in your first two attempts. How did it feel to finally get your hands on the belt last December?
Greatest feeling in the world!!! As someone that truly had to work to get here, it makes it so much sweeter. What I mean by that is that I am not a natural athlete. The one thing I brought to this sport was a fighting heart, the ability to go into the trenches and keep fighting. The other was my work ethic. So, I have really had to work to become a decent boxer and fight at this level. There has been so many lows along the way, and that is what makes the highs so wonderful. I still cannot believe I am a World Champion and I am very proud. I will always have that. If you witnessed the moment I won, and saw me drop to the canvas and cry like a little baby, haha, you would have seen in that outpouring what it took and what it meant and will always mean to me.
What has it meant to you to work some of the greats in Australian boxing in Lester Ellis and Graeme Brooke and how much of an influence have they had on your career to date?
Well it is kind of surreal, particularly given how humble and willing they are to share their knowledge and experiences. They have had a tremendous impact on me and those moments with them before fights, working with them, getting into their headspace as a fighter, is something I have taken into the ring with me. I feel very privileged to know them, have worked with them, and to be able to call them my friends. It is truly an honour and I feel very spoiled to have access to them!
Having competed as successful Muay Thai fighter, what prompted you to start a career in boxing?
My hands were shamefully bad. Haha. So, I actually went to boxing to make them sharpen them up for Muay Thai. I was never meant to be a boxer. At the time when I fought in Muay Thai there were very few competitors. I actually had to travel to Thailand to have my first fight. So, my boxing coach suggested I have a boxing fight to stay active and here we are.
It has been well documented that your sadly lost your father at a young age, what sort of effect did that have on your life and was it the catalyst for driving you to be not only a successful boxer but a successful person?
Yes, my dad died when I was 16-years old. This loss during my adolescent years had such a significant impact, it was at an age when you are really trying to figure out who you are. When my Dad died, I not only lost him and the relationship, but the sense of self that existed in that relationship. Who was I without my Dad? I really didn’t know. My Dad was my biggest cheerleader. When he died I was crushed in every way. It was when I was at University that I realised just how lost I was. For years I struggled with motivation and desire. I was completely lost and without my biggest cheerleader behind me, my self-esteem was really crushed.
When I was in my mid 20s a dear friend, Theo Goultesas, introduced me to Muay Thai and his love for the fighting was contagious. I was always a tomboy at heart and fell in love with it. I remember early on seeing females fight and thinking I would never have the courage to do that. After a while though fighting seemed like the only way to test what I had learned.
I never understood why I fought because I was always a dud at sports - no natural talent. I never had a real interest in sport or fitness as a whole and did not have a competitive nature. I would rather lie on a couch and enjoy some snacks. But what fighting did was give me a focus. And with that focus came motivation
The thing about fighting is that it forces you to be completely vulnerable. It is not exactly the easiest way to discover yourself and just what state you are in mentally and emotionally. Without self-belief it is easy to crumble in the ring. It was through the process of entering the ring that I realised how lost I was and in a way it became a way to process my grief. Fighting has taught me to believe in myself again and uncover who I am and the significance of my Dad’s loss. With every fight I have been forced to look within and have faced myself. With every triumph over myself, my sense of self has slowly started to re-build. It taught me to believe in myself and become my own cheerleader. So, I would say fighting and my Dad were equally the catalysts in my relentless approach to rebuilding and it has had a flow-on affect into all parts of my life.
You have the premiere of your documentary “Relentless” in theatres next Wednesday. How much does it mean to you to have your journey visually documented and how did it come about?
Aaron Ellis from Welcome Stranger Productions approached me, interested in following me around and documenting my journey a few years back, and to just sort of see what happened and whether there was a story in it. And I guess there was. It was really special to share this whole journey with Az. I consider him to be a very special person in my life, and feel like we truly went through the highs and the lows together. To have him capture so many moments along the way means a great deal for me. I do this sport for very personal reasons and to have it written in film forever is something I am truly grateful for.