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Gloves Up, Guard Down: How Bekah Robinson Became the Queen of Sting

Seconds before entering the ring for her first-ever fight, USA boxer Bekah Robinson could hear the enthusiastic announcer, the peculiarly steady beating of her own heart and the screams of a rowdy, adoring crowd. But the crowd wasn’t cheering for her.


Bekah had traveled five hours to Moundsville, West Virginia, from Lexington, Kentucky, to take on Moundsville local Stacy Sikole. 


“This girl had like seven or eight fights. I think the weight class was 130 (lbs), and I'm lucky to even walk around at like 122. And so I was under in weight and she was the hometown girl,” Bekah said. “So she had all the fans. I didn’t have any.”


Lacking the home-field advantage, size and experience of her opponent, the odds seemed stacked against Bekah. Regardless, she wasn’t afraid. 


“It's weird. I was way more calm than you would expect a person to be for their first fight. You ask anybody or you see me before a fight. Like, ‘why are you so calm? Like what, shouldn't you be nervous?’” Bekah said. “I don't know, something about fighting, on the day of the fight — I'm the coolest person in the room. Just relaxed. Quiet. Prepared.”


However, no amount of preparation could have changed the outcome of Bekah’s first fight on that day two years ago. She said that despite “easily” winning all the rounds, the match went to Sikole, teaching Bekah a valuable lesson about the nature of the sport she’s chosen to dedicate her life to. 

“I'll tell you what, I still got the video on my phone and they robbed me of the win,” Bekah said. “It was probably one of my best performances I've had in the fight. But I didn't get my hand raised. And that was a really big, like, smack in the face. But the hard part about boxing is it's political. You know, you got to have a name, you got to have the connections.”


In the time since then, Bekah has made every effort to make a name for herself. At age 27, she has nine fights under her belt, six of which she won, including a regional championship. She  even made a name for herself in a literal sense: “The Queen of Sting.” 


“The one thing I heard over and over and over after getting done sparring guys is like, ‘Man, your punches sting a little bit, they sting, I feel ’em.’ I kept hearing that word, ‘sting sting sting,’ and I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna have to use that somehow,’” Bekah said.


She said she wishes she could fight more often instead of just sparring (practice fighting), but it’s difficult to find opponents. There is a very limited number of amateur female boxers in her weight class nearby, and traveling for fights requires more time commitment and out-of-pocket expenses than she can regularly afford, especially as the mother of a 3- and 4-year-old.


Hence why she plans to switch from USA boxing, the amateur league, to semi-professional boxing. As a semi-pro boxer, Bekah would be able to fight other semi-pros and be paid for doing so, as opposed to paying to fight like she does now. She said she also likes the style of professional boxing more than that of USA boxing. USA boxing has shorter rounds, leaving less time to show off, according to Bekah. 


“There's not a whole lot of style or originality to it,” Bekah said of the amateur style. “So that's why I'm drawn to the pros. I'm going to be able to go out there and be like a Muhammad Ali of the 115-pound professional women. I want to bring that like showboating style, which I feel like you can only do in the pros.”


Bekah has stayed a USA boxer thus far because it’s the same style of boxing as is in the Olympics, a goal she used to have for herself but no longer sees in the cards due to timing and financial complications. 


She doesn’t regret anything about the path of her career, though. She said a lot of boxers rush the process of getting to the pros, whereas she’d rather take her time and go with the flow. She said she won’t consider going fully professional until she’s had at least four semi-pro matches, which she hopes will happen by the end of 2024.


“You need to get all your experience, you need to fight every fight style in the amateurs,

because once you go pro, you can't go back. You're locked in and the pros is no joke,” Bekah said. 

Bekah didn’t always know she would take boxing this seriously. In fact, she’d never been in a fight of any kind for the first 18 years of her life, but in 2016 her then-boyfriend, now-husband BJ Robinson inspired her to change that. 


The couple grew up going to church together in West Virginia but started dating when they began chatting online after Bekah graduated high school. A bit older than Bekah, BJ was already a professional boxer at that point. 


“So I was in the gym every single day watching him box, watching all the guys box,” Bekah said. “And I'm like, ‘I can do that, I can do this. I can probably do this better than the guys.’ So I just kind of jumped in.”


For most of their relationship, BJ has doubled as Bekah’s significant other and her coach, a dynamic that took some figuring out at first but ultimately strengthened the pair’s bond.


“Taking instruction from someone who you're in a relationship with … sometimes it's hard to separate the relationship of husband and wife versus the relationship of coach and player,” Bekah said. “So that was definitely something to overcome.”


Though she hasn’t always been a boxer, Bekah has always been an athlete. Years of doing gymnastics, volleyball, basketball and track prepared her for the intense strength, cardio and skills-based training required to box. What started as a fun way to stay in shape took over Bekah’s life when she fell in love with the sport’s extremely competitive and independent nature. 

“I think the difference is boxing is an individual sport. At the end of the day, it’s like you and your coach, you know, you can’t blame anyone else. Everything’s on you,” Bekah said. “And I kind of like that, it takes some of the pressure of the unknown off, like I have complete control of what happens. It’s just me.”


Bekah quit her job at UPS to make time for boxing, committed to becoming one of the greats. 


”I don't even know if I can tell you someone who I've seen and went 'I want that' because I just picture myself in that situation. I'm like, ‘I can be that. I can be those people,’ and I kind of just use that as my motivation,” Bekah said. “I know who I am and where I'm gonna go and I just stay being my number one fan.”


Now, she splits her time boxing and managing Ultimate Ninja Athletics in Lexington with her husband, where she teaches American Ninja Warrior-style classes and trains children and adults in boxing. While she believes boxing is beneficial to her students as a hobby, Bekah said she wouldn’t recommend seriously boxing to anyone.

“I really think the competence that you get from boxing and being able to defend yourself is huge. To be able to introduce that in a safe way to children or to anybody is crucial,” Bekah said. “Now when we're talking fighting pro or amateur, it's hard for me to recommend it because you have to sacrifice basically everything to be someone in this game. If it's not ‘you're seeing yourself doing this long term,’ I wouldn't recommend it.”


Requiring nearly daily training with no off-season, boxing is physically taxing and can lead to dangerous health complications. 


“Unfortunately, I have had at least four concussions already, and dealing with the brain trauma and what could be CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is not fun,” Bekah said. “Your brain is something that you can't just heal; this is not something that's just gonna magically go away one day.” 


Even so, Bekah said that the most painful thing about being punched in the face all the time is the blow it causes to her dignity.


“Getting punched in the face isn't pleasant. But when you're put in those fight or flight situations, you don't feel anything until after the adrenaline wears down,” Bekah said. “I think it hurts your pride more. It can hurt emotionally more. When I’m in there and I’m having an off night, it's not that I'm scared. It's that I'm disappointed in myself.”


Amid the physical and emotional costs, one thing Bekah isn’t willing to sacrifice for her boxing career is being a good mother. She kept training even when she was pregnant but said she and BJ take turns in the gym and with the kids. Though balancing motherhood with boxing isn’t always easy, Bekah said it’s gotten better as her children have gotten older. 


“They're getting to an age now where I can be like, ‘Hey, I'm going to train, you can train with me or you can watch or you know, go do your thing,’” Bekah said. “I always try to get them to spar with me. My older one, she's more of like, ‘I want to play Barbies.’ But my younger one’s like ‘Hey, mama, you want to fight?’ so we wrestle, we fight. They're in the gym all the time. They're so comfortable around boxing.”


Whether her kids become boxers one day or not, Bekah hopes growing up watching her box teaches them fierce resilience and self-assurance.


“I think what makes it worth it for me is being able to inspire other people. Being able to leave a legacy for my kiddos, you know for them to be able to be like 'oh look, that was my mom, she did that, she never quit, she kept going,’” Bekah said. “I wouldn't say it's the fame, I wouldn't say it's the money, that would be nice but that's definitely not the main motivation. It's not giving up on a goal.”


Even when it’s hard to keep going, the Queen of Sting maintains her determination with the help of the people she loves.


“There are days where I'm tired, you know. I'm tired of doing this, I'm tired of it. It can become very hard to control your emotions and your outbursts and really the one thing that kind of helps me keep it together is my team,” Bekah said. “But beyond that, I can't stop now. I'm in too good of a spot. I'm right there at the edge. I got these people holding me up behind me and we stay doing it.”


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