“A Boxing Star is Born” is the headline we will be reading all over the news because Malayah Baskerville is set to take the boxing world by storm. The videos Malayah’s father posted on his Instagram have gone viral and reposted by Will Smith, Timbaland, and ESPN, garnering over 6oo,ooo+ views.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Malayah, a 5-year-old prodigy and her father Franklin. I learned more about how Malayah got into boxing and how Franklin’s parenting has been effective in fostering Malayah’s skills. It makes a huge difference in a child’s life when their parents are supportive, which both Franklin and Malayah’s mother are. Although Malayah spends a lot of time boxing and sparring with her dad, she is also just a typical kid who loves playing video games and watching movies.
Meet Malayah and her dad Franklin.
Anna: Thank you for letting me interview both of you. It’s an incredible honor to have this opportunity to learn more about both of you, so we can feature you on the blog and other people can be inspired by what you do, your athleticism, and the way you’re raising your daughter. That’s amazing.
What is your name?
Franklin: Franklin Baskerville
Malayah: Malayah Baskerville.
Anna: How did Malayah get into boxing?
Franklin: Well, first and foremost, we were inspired by … I forgot her name, but with all due respect, I believe she’s from Russia. Well, she was a young lady punching on a tree. She’s an up-and-coming boxer that inspired me to just put the gloves on her at the age of four. That’s last year around maybe December 3rd, I believe we started.
Anna: December 3rd of last year. Wow.
Franklin: Of last year, yes. That was about seven months in, going on eight months in, I believe. Around that.
Anna: That’s great. Do you enjoy boxing?
Anna: What is your favorite thing about boxing and sparring with your dad?
Franklin: What do you like? What’s your favorite thing about boxing?
Anna: Your strength? You’re quick! I saw your video. She’s very quick.
Franklin: Thank you. What’s funny it didn’t take us too long for her to be quick. We started off slow. A process to get her hand-eye coordination correct and to get her to follow directions of where to throw a jab or uppercut or hook left, right. Even how to roll and slip punches. One day, I just said, “Let’s do it fast. Let’s pick it up a notch.” Out of nowhere, maybe two and a half months in, the speed increased and from there, it just took off.
Anna: Wow. Yeah, I saw that one video where she was showing another adult to…
Franklin: Right, right. Shout out to a good acquaintance of mine. His name is Ricardo. I actually just met him because of her boxing on the internet. He’s out of Harlem, New York. He gave me the opportunity to come work with him in a gym. Right now, we’re just working on when is the best time because I have to still provide for my daughter. So I said we’ll work out a schedule so I can just come off and on maybe one or two days out the week. Get her in the gym and show other young kids how to do the same.
Anna: Yeah, so inspiring. Because a lot of kids, especially now in the summertime, they’re probably not doing anything active. Parents are tired, but you’re taking the time.
Franklin: Oh, definitely, even when it’s hot, even when it’s very hot. I at least let her throw maybe 150-200 punches. We don’t have to do the same format that we do on a regular basis and just let her get warm, get loose. If she decides to take it further than that, and do any type of training process, then we work on that, as well.
Anna: And you enjoy it?
Anna: So what is her training schedule like? Is it a formal training schedule every day?
Franklin: It’s every day – from one to two hours. Sometimes we’ll take it overboard. I know she’s young. She’s only five and this summer, she doesn’t have school. Sometimes we take it from 8pm to almost one in the morning. We go hard, so if she’s doing really well or even if she messes up – the most important thing about it besides her being elite in her craft is to have the instructions embedded in her. For example, the video that we just put out today, I taught her this on Saturday and yesterday, we performed and we put the video out today and she woke me up. Well, actually when I woke up yesterday morning, which is Sunday. She actually said, “We’re going to do the combination that we did on Saturday.” I’ll go over it with her for a half an hour to an hour to make sure that it is embedded in her and that she’s enjoying it first and foremost, and that she does it correctly because we believe in perfection. We don’t want to put anything out and lead people the wrong way.
Anna: Is there a boxing camp or something like that where there are other children her age that are also into boxing?
Franklin: It’s camps and things around. We didn’t have the opportunity… I mean, with all due respect, I haven’t been reaching out. I’ve just been putting the video out and some people say they will look into a boxing camp for her or any type of training based facility for her. What I really recommend for her was to know how to protect yourself because we live in a crazy world. It just took off from there. I never had a plan on sending her to the gym or anything like that. At the same time, it’s people that give opportunities but they’re not solid with their work. So I just inspire people from my front room and I give all praise to the Most High first so we take it from there. If there are any opportunities where we can get involved, I’m willing to do so. But I haven’t been really searching. I’ve just been going on with the flow and what we do, and I think that I really liked that style even better, because I could be there with her every day. I’ve never been to a gym in my life.
Anna: Did you box before?
Franklin: No. I’ve had fights outside you know, coming up, but I never…
Anna: Like professional?
Franklin: No, never, ever. I’ve never been to professional fight. I’m into boxing but I’ve never been to a professional fight. I’ve never trained in a professional gym or somewhere local. Never. All this started from the front room.
Anna: If you don’t mind me asking, what does her mom think about her boxing?
Franklin: Oh, she loves it as long as my daughter’s comfortable with it. At first, it started off to her as, “Oh, that’s cute. It’s cute that the baby is doing that.” But when it got serious, it really wasn’t too much of a question mark there for her. She just wanted to make sure she enjoyed what she was doing and that she knows how to protect herself. First and foremost when it comes to boxing, the first thing to do in boxing is to protect yourself, protect your face at all times, protect your body at all times. As I taught her offense, I taught her defense as well.
Anna: Yeah, that’s really good. Does her mom happen to like boxing also? I mean, she probably got this somewhere because she’s so good.
Franklin: Yes. Thank you. Well, it took me a little while to get her mother involved in certain things that I’m involved in. But when I have fun out of doing these things, like experiencing these things that she’s not into, she gets used to it then she becomes a fan.
Anna: So she’s a supportive mom?
Franklin: Oh, absolutely.
Anna: That’s great. She has the support system.
Franklin: Definitely. That’s the most important. Because I have a son as well, but it’s a long story. But what’s most important in the child’s life is for both parents to be there in the household. No matter what you’re going through, it shouldn’t be in front of the child.
Anna: I agree. So, this may be a little bit more sensitive maybe. We saw that video that was posted on ESPN, it seemed like one of the hosts was making some inappropriate comments about your parenting and compared your relationship with Malayah to Marvin Gaye and his father. What can you say about that?
Franklin: Well, see. I looked at the subliminal messages, and I look at the direct messages and I didn’t take it in any type of way due to the fact that I listen to a lot of music. I was basically in tune with everything he said and he was basically comparing our situation to the Marvin Gaye situation, and they asked a question to somebody about how Marvin Gaye passed away. Then the guy was direct on how Marvin Gaye passed away. He didn’t sugarcoat what happened to him, so to me, I caught it as if he’s saying, “Wow, this father doesn’t play in the household. He’s direct with his daughter. He’s letting her know – He’s so serious that listen, man, you should just put the gloves down and pick up a book.” It wasn’t like he said, “She was stupid.” It wasn’t like he said, “She was slow or anything like that.” I actually took it as a funny compliment because whether it was positive and negative, it still made it on ESPN from Jersey City, New Jersey, and I’m from Booker T projects located in Jersey City, New Jersey, and it is a lot that’s going on for years and for that to happen and people react to it is all positive.
Anna: Yeah, so it’s positive exposure.
Anna: And it’s good that you didn’t take whatever was said negatively. You have a different kind of headspace.
Franklin: Absolutely, what’s most important is you have to set examples, but don’t get me wrong. There were certain comments that people left in the comment section when they called her a name. You know, ignorant.
Anna: They’re haters.
Franklin: Right, haters. I responded. But their response to my response is totally different. So I know that they were just being funny and being stupid for the internet. I’m not gonna play about my daughter.
Franklin: Trolls, right. But one thing about me. I’m a family man. So, if you plan on doing any of these things, I’m definitely gonna give you the attention for my family and for myself. But far as the comments that were made by the gentleman on ESPN, it was way worse in the comments section than what he said and not to get anything to do with race anything like that. It was funny because the other guy wasn’t black that said, “Wow, this is impressive.” The guy that said the comment is black and I’m black, she’s black so even if it was negative it puts a negative light on us on how we judge one another. When somebody else gave the compliment that’s that, you know. That doesn’t come where we come from. So either way is positive for me.
Anna: It’s good that you have a good outlook. But the comments section is always… You can be a regular person, your account’s public and people will say whatever they want to say.
Franklin: Absolutely, and I understand that because a lot of those people that they stuck on the internet they’re not out here they’re not really in. I’m not saying even being in the streets or being in the bottom. I’m talking about just some people in the comment section are scared to walk to the store. Right, the store gonna be down the block but, but they’ll drive their cars to the store. So it’s just the disrespect and calling her out her name.
Anna: And she’s just a child.
Franklin: Five years old.
Anna: And she’s doing better than any of these adults.
Franklin: I didn’t want to say that because I’m in a privileged position. I don’t honestly take the credit for any of this, I give the credit to my maker, the most high. That’s what I believe in. Faith to us is the greatest success in the world. We see beyond these things, but respect is respect at the same time. We give respect. You can’t really expect respect but we give respect first.
Anna: Yeah, that’s great advice. That’s amazing. What about you Malayah, what do you like to do in your spare time? If you’re not boxing, what are you doing?
Franklin: What else? Besides fighting. When you’re not fighting, what do you like to do?
Franklin: I know. Besides boxing, what do you like to do? Your toys? What’s your favorite cartoon? What movies? What do you like to do? Do you like to do homework?
Malayah: I like to do boxing.
Franklin: Well, she’s a boxer. She just wants to say boxing. What else? What’s your favorite toy? Who’s your favorite?
Anna: Yeah, or what cartoons do you watch? What shows do you watch?
Malayah: My cartoon is Sonic.
Franklin: Who else do you like? Sonic and who else?
Franklin: How about Crash? Crash Bandicoot? Do you like to dance?
Anna: You like to dance? Dancing and boxing are big on discipline.
Franklin: Absolutely, absolutely. Like I said, she’s shy so she’s just opening up. If you name a bunch of, you know, toys and things, she’ll talk to you all day. We’ll probably have to cancel the interview. I’m just letting you know she’s shy, she’s just warming up.
Anna: It’s fine. It’s totally fine. What’s the last movie that you saw?
Anna: Moana. I love Moana, that’s my favorite one. I know she’s trying to do big things right now. Where do you see Malayah in the next five years? You mentioned earlier that she’s gonna be in kindergarten?
Franklin: Yes, yes. Wow, it’s tough because she’s good in a lot of things. Like I said, especially when she breaks out of being shy, she can be a superhero. She can be anything she puts her mind to. I see her successful, healthy, and someone with a big heart. To me, that’s a superhero. Somebody with a big heart that reaches out to the bottom that could adapt to the top as well. So, you know, for us, fortunate fame and things of that nature are not really important to us. It’s cool. I see her being a great person at heart and that’s what matters to us. Everybody loves her wherever she goes. What’s funny is before she started boxing, people used to stop us, me and her mother and say, “This girl has big dreams. She’s gonna be something. She’s gonna be somebody.” I’m not saying that I never saw it, but what was most important to me is just being in her life and making sure that she’s disciplined and respectful and smart.
Anna: I really admire the videos that you posted of her. I mean, when I was five, I was not doing that.
Franklin: I don’t wanna say what I was doing at five. I was smart but I wasn’t using it for good. We appreciate it, we appreciate it.
Anna: Especially now, you’re a girl and you can defend yourself. It’s so inspiring. A lot of girls will be inspired to stand up for themselves too and learn how to do martial arts or anything that can help them protect themselves.
Franklin: It was a gentleman. I’m speaking of Ricardo when I went to his gym some few weeks back, maybe three weeks ago. It was a gentleman that does martial arts and he was telling me that boxing is even more special because you have to be much more composed and you need to move. I thought other martial arts was actually better than boxing and more disciplined than boxing. For a guy that does martial arts, and teaches his daughters these things as well, he has them actually in a boxing class, rather than a martial arts club. So I think we picked the right thing.
Anna: Yeah. And it’s also good to learn other types of martial arts. Yeah, I remember I was a bit of a fan I mean, I still do like Ronda Rousey but when she was starting up in UFC she was unbeatable. She was known to have studied all these other martial arts and kind of combine it all into UFC that’s why she was unbeatable and at that time, she was the only one that was doing that. Yeah, it kind of caught on, right?
Franklin: Because you have to study the greats. It’s unfortunate. I was just studying Pernell Whitaker. He passed away yesterday he’s a boxing legend. One of the fastest, one of the greatest boxers that exist on this planet and he died yesterday from a car accident. Rest in peace, but what’s crazy is that I was just watching the speed and it just inspired me. We like to study greatness because in order to become great or better than great, you have to study greatness. And we also study people that don’t have the eye of the tiger either so we can learn from their mistakes so that we can adjust to not make the same mistakes that they made as well. So we don’t fail. I have her look at boxing, I have her look at certain music. Everything. I get her involved in everything. I don’t hide anything from her. I think it’s important to show your kids in a mature way everything you possibly can so that they won’t sneak behind your back and get involved and do it later.
Anna: And kinda learn it on their own and do things behind your back.
Franklin: Absolutely. Absolutely. So you show her the world on every aspect to it and certain things that are too much. We don’t show it but she happens to see it because we live in a crazy world and she asks questions, we explain it to her.
Anna: Yeah, that’s really good. Because I mean, now it’s hard to filter bad things, you know, absolutely things slip. But it’s good that you do show her because kids always have questions.
Franklin: Oh, definitely. You have to be prepared to answer because like I said, we live in this world is, you know, there’s a lot that comes with the world positive and negative. There’s some in-between as well. So as long as she’s an all around player to that degree, that’s fine with us. Just being smart first and being educated first.
Anna: Do you have a favorite fighter? Who’s your favorite fighter?
Franklin: Perfect answer.
Anna: Yeah, you’re confident. I love it.
Franklin: Do you like Floyd Mayweather?
Franklin: Do you like Manny Pacquiao?
Franklin: See, I’m the opposite. I love both, but Mayweather…
Anna: I respect him. You know, I love Pacquiao. He’s my country’s hero, but all respect to Mayweather.
Franklin: Absolutely. Even with Manny, they’re both great in their own way. They’re both on elite level, but even elite levels have levels to them. Even though it was a 1-0 situation, it doesn’t mean that Pacquiao is not great. He’s still a legend. One thing he has that Mayweather doesn’t have is a country behind him. So you can have all the money in the world, all the success. You can be undefeated, but it counts what you do after work, as well. And they’re both gentlemen, both fighters do great things on the field or off of the field. But Manny Pacquiao, I see him talk to the homeless people on the camera, it’s just a beautiful thing. They’re both legends in their own way.
Anna: He really came from humble beginnings. And the Philippines is a third world country, so if you’re poor, you’re really in the bottom. Having his athleticism and really making his way to the top, that’s discipline a lot of discipline. So she’s in the right path.
Franklin: Absolutely. And that’s why I said faith is the key because he has a lot of faith and what I believe in as well and like those that do believe, faith is the number one success if you’re in that line of faith, if you believe that and look at him now. At the end of the day, he’ll always be solidified as being one of the greatest or the greatest because he has a country behind him and that’s what matters, that’s what counts.
Anna: That’s awesome. I appreciate that.
Franklin: No problem. We appreciate you.
Anna: So with what you’re doing with Malayah and how she’s trying to get into boxing more. Is this something that you maybe want support from other people? How can be people support this journey because like for me, I’m a fan so how can I show my support?
Franklin: Thank you. This is great support now. This interview with you is an opportunity. Of course, likes on Instagram and social media. If there are any opportunities with people that are on the next step and the next level at a gym and they see things for her. Commercial, anything that can bring something positive to those that are inspired by this, I’m fine. It’s not that I don’t want to work with anybody but at the same time, I’m busy with her to depend on anybody, as well. I have to depend on my effort into making sure that she’s great. That’s my job. Whatever type of support from fans or from people that are going to become fans, any positive support is fine and we were grateful for.
Anna: That’s awesome. Is there anything else or is she gonna be on anywhere or featured on anything?
Franklin: We actually had contracts from rumble.com. But when you’re a little smarter than people think, it doesn’t go through. It’s just certain things in a contract that we didn’t agree upon and my advice to those that plan on doing something big with their careers or their child’s careers, always look at the small words in these contracts open up the dictionary.
Anna: Don’t just sign.
Franklin: Right. Because, like I said, where I’m from, it’s tough. It’s an opportunity to get out of the hood, out of the ghetto, out of the bottom. But I’d rather be at the bottom than sign my life away for pennies or to sign my life away for people that just want to have your work for a lifetime and give you whatever they choose.
Anna: And not really care about the craft. She’s five years old, you know?
Franklin: Absolutely. In this field, there is a lot of things that go on that are inappropriate for children. It’s just a monstrous world when it comes to children and you can’t be blind to the fact that people will take advantage of your child.
Anna: The priority has to be her safety and that she’s not being taken advantage of.
Franklin: Absolutely. We don’t need that because, at the end of the day, they gonna say I’m wrong if I respond to what the reaction was. Before I let anybody take advantage, I rather just cut them off. And that goes into the situation, as I say, for the people offer her opportunities. One thing about us, we are go-getters. We are not going to beg and if we want something we will ask once. Other than that we work hard, and we do our own thing.
Anna: We make it happen.
Franklin: So you know, it’s a blessing.
Anna: You shared some really good points. Your advice on how to maneuver people who want to be successful for other things. With the world right now, social media is such a big part of it. You’re kind of putting yourself in such a vulnerable position when you share everything out there. But my question is, what advice can you give other parents that maybe are struggling to support their kids’ dreams at such a young age? I’ve seen other videos of also young kids that are so into athleticism or there are other kids that are so young and they want to be celebrities. What advice can you give those parents? You seem to be very supportive. You’re taking the time to train your daughter, and you’re also working to provide for your family, so what advice can you give?
Franklin: Number one, faith. That’s a decision that people have to make faith in the most high. A lot of people say, “I’m not my child’s friend or you shouldn’t be friends with your child.” I think it goes both ways. You should you always have a friendly relationship with them so they can speak to you, talk to you about what they want and what they’re going through. But since you’re also not sugarcoating anything from your kids, because you don’t want to tell them lies, and then they find out what’s real, and then they come back, it can backfire on you. So have a solid relationship with your young ones. Work hard. There’s also parents out there and I’m also in a situation with my son, it didn’t work out well between me and his mom. There are some parents that use the systems to separate the families and things of that nature. So you can’t give up on that either. You just have to keep the faith and stay positive and not dwell or stoop down to the level of somebody that’s lost. Yeah, and with my daughter, this just opened up a whole opportunity to be looked at as a hero now. So I would say don’t give up on your dream for your kids as well. And always give your kids the correct advice because best advice is to correct advice. And last but not least, I was saying, show your family and also your kids great responsibility, great leadership, and educate them.
Anna: Train them young.
Franklin: Absolutely. Allow them to look at greatness. Always tell them that they could be the best in the world. That’s my three lines to her. I’ll say, “Who could stop you?” She’ll say, “The man above myself.” That’s it. And also “Who are you?” “I’m the greatest, I’m the best!” That right there is to encourage your family.
Anna: Believe in yourself – that’s so important because sometimes. we are our worst critic. If you believe in yourself, no one can ever tell you the opposite.
Franklin: But it’s funny because being your worst critic pushes you if you believe in yourself, as well, because you can still believe yourself and be your worst critic. I do music and if I mess up on one line when I’m recording a song and I’m on the last two bars of the lyrics, I’ll record the whole verse over because that one little mistake messed up the whole side.
Anna: You’re a perfectionist.
Franklin: Absolutely. So I shoot for perfection and I think that being the worst critic is amazing especially when everybody else is telling you not has to wait, this is how you do it. It’s two types of people you have to look at – people that are yes men that say this is the way because they just want to eat off you or be in the limelight, and there are other people that really believe in you. Right? Listen, I know you’re doing something great.
Anna: How about a non-boxing related question?
Franklin: Absolutely. Anything you want to ask, we’re comfortable with it.
Anna: When you guys are not boxing, what do you guys do together? Or how do you bond as a family?
Franklin: Homework. Sometimes we’ll play some Sonic. Sometimes we’ll laugh and joke, play-fight.
Anna: What’s your favorite subject?
Franklin: What do you like to do? Do you like writing? Do you like to tell the time? Do you like math or do you like science?
Anna: Nice! Do you make slime? A lot of kids make slime.
Malayah: I put glitter on it.
Anna: What kind of glitter?
That’s fun. A lot of kids love slime. What’s your favorite Jersey City hangout spot?
Franklin: Well, of course, where I’m from. I gotta represent in a positive way well from. I like Newport Mall.
Anna: Which has changed a lot!
Franklin: A whole lot but it’s beautiful. A lot of things coming in, affecting the city. Downtown, just my domain. So the Waterfront is beautiful. Exchange Place. From Newark Ave. from First to Sixth. Everywhere. The whole downtown, I love the Heights. I love my entire city. I really do but on the places that I normally hang out, if I decide to go out… Liberty State Park, because I like looking at the buildings and always pictured, “Listen one day, you’ll own this. You’ll own that.” So looking at the city anywhere in the waterfront, actually where I grew up in and was raised at, you guys should see the city and it’s just beautiful from where we are.
Anna: Nice. And do you both hang out here a lot in Lincoln Park?
Franklin: Yes, yes. She usually comes out with her Mom headed to the park. If I go out, I take her to New York. Things of that nature and we do a couple of movies. I really let her do whatever she wants as long as it’s appropriate. In the house, it’s tough out here so you have to be careful in certain areas and our own. She just loves to be on a tablet. She loves to be on a tablet. She plays video games. She decides box and colors. Whatever she likes.
Anna: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Malayah: A princess.
Anna: Princess fighter. That’s cool, right?
Malayah: I wanna be like Tiana.
Anna: Tiana, yeah. You fight the bad guys.
Franklin: You know it’s funny, I actually ask her the same thing and that’s the same answer she gave me.
Anna: Moana is a strong princess. She’s a fighter.
Is there anything else that you want our readers to know about you guys?
Franklin: I just appreciate the opportunity because weeks ago, I didn’t have this opportunity. So any interview with the right questions and appropriate questions with the appropriate people and nice people, it is a privilege and a blessing, and an honor and we thank you. I hope this happens for more young kids or even adults or teens and anybody in the world that’s doing what they have to do in a positive and appropriate matter to shine and accomplish success, I hope that they get interviewed as well. That’s all I’m asking out of it.
Anna: What can you tell your fans?
Franklin: What do you want to tell the people that like you? What do you want to say to them?
Malayah: I will say, “thank you.”
Franklin: What else
Malayah: I like you.
Anna: Awesome. Thank you so much.