Briana Allan talks a lot with her hands. In her line of work, her hands are always moving but then again, so are her feet.
The real challenge, Allan says, is to get her mind there. She does this through listening to rhythm and blues and hip-hop artists like J. Cole to clear her head before the swings start. Anything with a good beat, she says.
“It’s more a mental game than physical,” Allan says. “Physically you can get there but can you handle being punched in the face over and over?”
She laughs. Allan is one of the few female boxers at her gym and the only one in her old gym in Lillington. In a sport that has been often filled with men, and sometimes having no sparring partners but male boxers, Allan has a good spirit about her. She laughs a lot as she moves her hands around, two hair ties adorning her wrist. She looks down at her wrists and laughs a little. It takes two, she says, to get her long curly hair into a braid and into her headgear.
For Allan, it’s all about breaking down the time into smaller increments.
“I will look at the clock and say, ‘I only have 30 more seconds.’”
Allan trains on three minute rounds with 30 second breaks. Allan, 17, graduated high school early and has stuck around the area just to continue to work on her sport before heading off to Campbell University in the fall.
In just a week, Allan and more than 300 other boxers, male and female, ages 8 to 70, will compete in the annual Carolina Gloves South Boxing tournament. The tournament will host boxers from all over the United States and a few from Canada and Puerto Rico.
“We’ll have some of the most elite boxers from all over … some will be competing for the U.S. Olympic team,” Mark Hornsby, the event's co-director, says.
Those two boxers with the Olympic trials in their futures are female students of Coach Patrick Finklin. Finklin will have boxers of all ages in the tournament including an 8-year-old who is currently number one in the country for his age and weight class.
Coach Patrick is also a coach to many active duty military members who will also be competing in the upcoming tournament.
“I like coaching active duty military. They are more disciplined and focused. They are here until they get stationed somewhere else,” he says. “They are not only focused, but loyal.”
Coach Hornsby and Coach Patrick are the two directors for the upcoming tournament and the Vice President and President of North Carolina USA Boxing, respectively.
“We’ve done a lot of work,” Hornsby says, “That’s what brings in the boxers and keeps them coming back.”
Allan is a testament to that statement with morning training sessions that range about two hours and lately, she’s added an afternoon session with her second boxing coach, Coach Font, to work on the skills she started in the morning.
“It takes a team to box,” she says.
Allan adjusts again in her seat and a smile is not very far from her face as she speaks about boxing and her coaches. Allan now travels from Lillington to Fayetteville to Coach Font’s gym to get some sparring time with other female boxers. For the beginning of her boxing time, she had mostly male companions to fight.
“You know, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Sparing with males has made me a lot tougher,” she says. “But being around women, it’s a different kind of empowerment. We all know what it’s like to [be] a woman in sports.”
Allan is excited about the upcoming tournament. She’ll keep up the regimen of training until a week out from the tournament when she and other boxers will protect their arms from becoming too fatigued and dial down the running as to be careful not to roll an ankle.
Allan’s grandmother, on the other hand, has other worries.
“She says, ‘I don’t want you to mess up your pretty face or break your teeth,’” Allan says laughing.
The tournament will be held June 17 and 18. Saturday’s round will start around 12 p.m. with the first session lasting until 4 p.m. and the second session beginning around 6 p.m. and will last until about 10 p.m. that night.
Sunday will be the championship rounds that begin at 12 p.m. and last until 6 or 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the event for $25, kids ages 7 and under are free.
“It’s going to be a good experience. That first year we did it was a gas shortage,” Coach Patrick says. “It didn’t stop people from doing it. When they showed up it was hard to find gas to get back home.”
The Carolina Gloves South Boxing Tournament is presented by the Harnett County Police Activity League. The tournament will be held at the Freedom Courts Sportsplex, part of the Freedom Christian Academy campus, located at 3126 Gillespie Street in Fayetteville.