Sydnee Gorder, daughter of Cass County Electric Cooperative lineworker Kelsey Gorder, has brought a national boxing championship title to the Red River Valley.
It takes a lot to make Kelsey Gorder nervous. The Cass County Electric Cooperative lineworker has one of the most dangerous jobs in the country – a day at work could involve climbing a 50-foot pole or restoring power during a deadly blizzard. But the day his 15-year-old daughter, Sydnee, laced up her boxing gloves in Missouri for the 2023 National Silver Gloves championship bout, cracks started to show in his fearless disposition.
“I put 100 miles on my boots in about a 20-foot square,” Kelsey said of his support role as ringside pacer.
“I think her dad was a little more nervous than she was on fight day,” teased Jesse Barbot, Sydnee’s coach and owner of Barbot Boxing & Fitness in Fargo, N.D.
Sydnee smashed her dad’s anxieties. She won the match, and with it, the Silver Gloves championship belt. The Fargo South High School freshman was the first of Barbot’s athletes to win a national boxing title at any level, and she had only been training for less than two years. Barbot owned a gym for a decade before closing down after the COVID pandemic. Soon after, he partnered with the Fargo Police Department to provide training opportunities for local youth, a program that soon brought him back to competitive coaching – and brought Sydnee to his door.
“I’m very proud of her. She works really hard,” the coach said. “I had two female professionals back when I had the gym, and she’s going to surpass both of them. I’m assured.”
Just like her lineworker father, when Sydnee puts her mind to something, there’s no stopping her. She was active in Taekwondo for several years, and when she finally gravitated away from the mat, she started to feel a pull to the ring.
“I always really liked fighting sports. I thought they were pretty cool,” Sydnee said. “Then I saw some videos of boxing and it seemed fun. So I was like, I want to do boxing, and see if I can get anywhere with it.”
Boxing is a fairly niche hobby, especially for women. However, Barbot says its popularity has skyrocketed amongst girls ever since women’s boxing became an official Olympic sport in 2012. Even so, Sydnee is only one of two girls currently training with Barbot.
“They spar a lot. Before that, 95% of Syd’s sparring was done with the boys,” Barbot said. “Those boys realize that if they don’t push her, they’ll get beat up. A lot of times, they think they’re going to go nice and light, and then Syd will start teeing off on them,” he added with a chuckle.
Kelsey admits that he had a hard time with watching Sydnee box at first, especially against the boys. But he saw that his girl was holding her own, and he put his trust in Barbot’s leadership.
“I love it. She’s come a long way in a couple of years. She works hard, not only with Jesse, but just on her own – running, everything on her own time. She puts in a lot of work, and it’s paid off,” he said.
Road to the championship
It can be difficult for Sydnee to find regional female opponents. She’s lucky to have a competitive bout once a month. In fact, she received an automatic bye in the North Dakota state championship this year because there was not another female competitor in her weight division. She then went to the regional tournament for the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin – and ended up getting a walkover all the way to the Silver Gloves nationals. It wasn’t how Syd wanted to get there.
“But, the cool thing was, one or two weeks before the national tournament, she got to box another regional champion, just in a regular bout. And Syd ended up stomping her,” Barbot said. “You TKO’d her in the second round, right?”
“Mhhm,” Sydnee replied with a humble nod.
Sydnee obviously belonged in the national tournament, but she (and her dad) did have some jitters waiting for the championship bout against her California opponent. But the nerves were all for naught – the fight was called for the girl from North Dakota.
“When we were leaving Missouri, that was just surreal. She got done with her match at 6 o’clock that Saturday night, and we took off and headed home. It felt like I had only been in the car for 20 minutes,” Kelsey said. “I was pretty proud to read the articles afterward and see all of the support from everyone.”
The National Silver Gloves champion won’t slow down now that she’s ended her season on top. She’s still involved in Fargo South softball and trapshooting, and she plans to take on cross country running in the fall. But her eye is ultimately on growing within the sport of boxing. Sydnee has one more year of eligibility in Silver Gloves before trying her hand at the Junior Olympic qualifiers when she’s 17. Once she’s 18, she’ll progress to the Golden Gloves program, all in the hopes of punching her ticket into the world of professional boxing.
Does Kelsey brag about his national champion to others at the co-op? “Yeah, a little bit,” he said with pride in his smile. “It’s pretty neat. I hope she goes as far as she wants to go with this.”