Brijhana Epperson is used to being the only girl in the boxing ring. The 12-year-old trains mostly with boys and is often the best boxer in her age group.
But she doesn’t want it to stay that way.
In fact, Epperson and her father/trainer, Courtney Epperson, are actively working to get more girls into boxing in the Kansas City area. Throughout June, the father-daughter duo and coaching partner Moragen Ferrell volunteered at WIN for KC, a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and girls through sport. WIN for KC runs camps for girls in the KC area, and the Eppersons and Ferrell volunteered four days a week in June to provide boxing training.
“We saw an opportunity to reach out and teach the basics of boxing and even bring some attention to boxing,” Courtney Epperson said. “We visit almost every school in the region. At the end of June, beginning of July, we will have reached almost 800 girls. So thanks to that, we already have interests for the girls to come in.
Although young girls’ interest in boxing has increased a bit over the years, it is still not as popular among girls as it is among boys.
“I think not many girls get into boxing because they’re not confident enough,” Brijhana Epperson said. “Once you get into boxing it just opens up your personality. You see another side of you that you have never seen before, you become confident – I know my confidence increased a lot when I started boxing.
His confidence grew, but his ego did not. It was a shock to her when some girls came up to her at WIN For KC camp asking for autographs. She agreed, but her favorite part of volunteering was seeing other girls enjoying the sport she loves.
“I want other girls to learn how to do this and be a part of it because boxing just needs a lot more girls,” she said. “So just seeing new girls learning this, and loving it, it’s very energizing, it’s very motivating.”
Courtney Epperson thinks summer camps like WIN for KC’s Camp WIN are the kind of grassroots efforts that will help grow the game for girls. He hopes that one day youth boxing here won’t be as underground as it is now.
It wasn’t always the plan for Brijhana to become a boxer or achieve the level of success she deserved. She won the national title at the 2019 Junior Olympics and was a national champion with USA Boxing this year. She won silver at the Junior Olympics last week in Lubbock, Texas, and Courtney said she is already counting the days until the national tournament in December.
Brijhana Epperson speaks with a maturity that makes you forget she’s 12, and she also throws the kind of punches that make you forget she is. Barely four years into her training, she is already dominating the women’s boxing scene locally.
“On the way (to matches), I’m a little nervous, a little nervous,” she admitted. “And then when I get there, I put on the gloves and I think to myself, immediately, this is where I belong. I know what I’m supposed to do, I know how I feel, and it just comes natural to me.
But how did 8-year-old Brijhana Epperson get into boxing? According to her father, he started teaching her self-defense after learning she had a “mean steak”, as he put it. One day in a park, the father said, she saw children teasing a young boy. She took it upon herself to come between them and let them know that “nobody’s making fun of him unless you’re meddling with me.”
Courtney Epperson said he told his daughter that if she was going to put herself in these situations, she had to know how to defend herself.
“When I started her self-defense at home, it just clicked for her and it just kept growing, exponentially,” he said. “She kept going, kept getting more interesting and then one day, boom, she said, ‘Can we go coach somebody else? From that day… she never looked back.
But there is also another facet of Brijhana Epperson: ballet.
She was a dancer before being a boxer, and she also followed that. She said ballet is an outlet for her, something she can do to release her emotions and express herself. She even has a shirt with “The Boxing Ballerina” printed on the back, giving an extra layer of meaning to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
She doesn’t plan to give up either of her passions anytime soon, hoping to one day open her own gym. She wants one side dedicated to boxing, the other a dance studio for ballet. Her life is surrounded by both boxing and ballet, and she is excited to one day introduce other young girls to the two sports she loves.
“It means the world, because it shows me that she is planning and setting goals,” Courtney Epperson said of her daughter’s ambitions. “We talk about it all the time and it never really changes, her passion for it never changes. is what I want to do”, so I’m happy. …
“She has the mindset where she wants to reach places where girls, or boys, but especially girls, maybe don’t know it’s possible.”