It’s a typical weekday night. Hair in a bun, t-shirt hanging slightly off one shoulder and the seemingly invisible thought bubble poking out of her fiery, red hair all while games are afoot with the little ones in the bathroom. It’s bath time in the Morales-Hayes home and, also, days away from her professional debut as a professional pugilist.
Jennifer “Jiffy” Morales could very well be called that “Wild Card.” Her unassuming demeanor that commands attention upon her crossing a threshold. Her 5-foot 1 inch stature with her racially ambiguous looks that provoke you to squint your eyes and tilt your head to the side at first sight. Her intellect that radiates confidence, but not arrogance, within seconds of a conversation. And her boxing ability that has grown before the Houston boxing scene. The mother of 2 little boys, Cairo and Cade, businesswoman of a modern way to relive stress entitled Smash Therapy and now a professional boxer.
Most women when they enter a combat sport, it is typically for weight purposes, just wanted to take a cardio kickboxing class and really liked it, or a good stress reliever. For Morales, hers was a combination of all 3.
Jennifer, affectionately named Jiffy after her beloved teacher saw her solve a math problem in a “Jiffy,” displayed gumption and courage at an early age. She graduated from Tampa Bay Tech with certification in childcare at 17 and with 2 suitcases she made the brave decision to move California. There she became a nanny in Santa Clarita, near LA County. She was with their 2 children all day and night, went places with them, cooked, cleaned, her employer mom taught her how to drive and, essentially, she was part of their family. After 2 years with them, she decided she wanted more and to further her education. Her desired university to attend was Stanford but was not accepted due to financial constraints on the university’s part. She was, however, accepted to Texas Southern University where her Houston boxing story began.
While at TSU she created the first boxing team where she was the first woman to compete on a regional level and won also making it to nationals. Furthering her achievements, she was instrumental in being part of the team that created USIBA – United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association, which is an affiliate of USA Boxing.
Hearing her achievements, one would certainly be moved by them, but it’s different for her. Throughout our conversation, it was as if she wasn’t impressed with her own accomplishments. As if there was a sense of desire for something greater and these things were merely part of the journey. And it all stems from her upbringing.
Growing up for Morales was something out of a TV Movie. In the 21st century, her story would have been made for a Netflix or Hulu special, but I digress. At age 2, her mother kidnapped her from South Carolina, and she was taken to Florida against her father’s wishes. Until recently, Morales had no knowledge of her biological father, but was found using modern ancestry technology. Being raised by her mother, it was a constant battle for understanding the treatment from her mother and bullies from school who didn’t quite understand her Puerto Rican and Irish heritage. “She was emotionally and physically abusive and I felt like I was a burden to her” said Morales “and the kids were the same when I went to school. I can’t help the way I speak or look. It’s who I am.”
When asked if she ever fought back, a simple “no” was given. As her nose begins to show signs of a reddish hue and her eyes fill with tears, she says the most relatable and vulnerable reply stating, “I was so used to seeing my mom get beat and drug by her hair that I thought it was normal.”
Often, as children, and young adults, we forget that our parents were growing and maturing when they had us. They were still learning themselves all while trying to raise their children. There’s no manual to knowing how to raise a child and be a good parent and because of that harsh truth, when parents make big and lasting mistakes with their children, the child takes it personally and, in many cases, repeats the cycle. But when it comes to Cairo and Cade, she’s broken the cycle all while following her dreams. “I hope they don’t feel neglected because I’m so busy. I want them to feel that I’m a good mom and that they’re loved. I really don’t want them to hate me for following my dreams. I just don’t want to send them the message that their life doesn’t stops when something major happens like a child. I want to be their superhero mom.”
After years of abuse and neglect, she’s certainly wearing superhero hats daily. Her weekly schedule shuffles between her family, boxing and her successful business. She starts her day by taking care of her children and family, then to the boxing gym for round and rounds of jump rope, shadow boxing, bag work, pads with her coach, sparring & calisthenics. Next comes running her company Smash Therapy, completing errands, then, finally, home to take care of her family and possibly able to squeeze in a pedicure.
All the time, effort, energy, and sacrifice are all worth it for Jiffy. For her, it’s more than just the glory; it’s for her people. “I want to impact other girls that have gone through the same things as I have. I feel like my calling is to impact the community that I came from which is a broken home.” She’s also fighting for young Jennifer that wouldn’t, but could, fight back. Every fight she’s projecting her younger feeling self that would never defend herself. Boxing is more than just a sport; it is her therapy and her healing.
Jennifer “Jiffy” Morales’ story is still being written, but thus far, she’s given us a master class on overcoming and achieving. She’s shown us how to be bolder than our deepest fears, stronger than our greatest worry and how to be innately brave.
Be sure to follower Jennifer as she makes her professional boxing debut on October 23, 2021 in Bogota, Colombia. Follower her on IG to get updates, donate, sponsor and watch her do work!