They call her Stinger. Here's how this 14-year-old is making her mark in the boxing scene

April Kelly is a 14-year-old boxer from London. The grade 9 student is undefeated so far, but says there's pressure to keep that record going.  (Michelle Both/CBC - image credit)
April Kelly is a 14-year-old boxer from London. The grade 9 student is undefeated so far, but says there's pressure to keep that record going. (Michelle Both/CBC - image credit)

April Kelly started competitive boxing eight months ago, but she already has a nickname: Stinger.

"I swear those punches just sting," said Yulissa Agudelo, her coach at Bushido Boxing in London. "She's just such a beast in the ring when she hits, that's why we call her Stinger."

Kelly is already making her mark in female boxing with an undefeated record of 6-0. But finding female opponents to fight in her 52 kg weight class is difficult. Along the way, she's had to fight girls two years older than her.

She's fought in Niagara, Toronto and twice at the Brampton Cup, but said it's time to expand outside of Ontario. This weekend, she's crossing the border for a fight in Grand Rapids, Mich. at the Gimme Shelter Showdown II. Later this month, she'll head to New Brunswick.

Michelle Both/CBC
Michelle Both/CBC

"In Canada, we have a harder time finding females that are in her weight class or her division, so they're heading to the U.S. to gain more experience and exposure," said Agudelo.

It's one reason they both want to see more females take up the sport. Right now, she trains four or five times a week at Bushido Boxing on Adelaide St. N. with a group of youth.

"It's a great place to take out your anger, and the atmosphere is also really welcoming. It's really nice and refreshing to also come in, get a workout, leave and feel relaxed," she said.

The amateur fighter has her sights set on boxing in the Olympics one day — but is looking forward to wherever the sport takes her.

Female boxing made its debut at the 2023 Canada Winter Games for the first time this year. The games take place from Feb. 18 to March 5 in P.E.I. By the next games in 2027, Kelly will be old enough to compete.

It's good news for Kelly, who said it feels great to know more females will be inspired to pick up the sport. It's a change she calls "refreshing."

For coach Agudelo, the change was overdue.

Michelle Both/CBC
Michelle Both/CBC

"My goal is to make these kids get to that level — and knowing that there wasn't anything for women sucks," she said. She believes it's upsetting how slow change was made, but is happy it's here.

With so few females in the industry, she said she's been looking on as a female coach.

"I'm starting to notice a change," said Agudelo. "Now females are starting to get into it more and starting to understand that this is not a male dominant sport, that females are able to do it as well."

The more females stepping up and getting in the ring, the more are inspired to take up the sport, she said. She's excited to see more girls start boxing at the club — some as young as eight.

The sports helps kids deal with stress and anxiety, and she makes it her goal to ensure they feel safe and comfortable, she said.

Michelle Both/CBC
Michelle Both/CBC

When younger girls see Kelly boxing at Bushido Boxing, they take notice.

"It shows that again, this is something that everyone can do. No matter gender, no matter age, no matter what, this is a sport that's equal to everyone," she said.

Kelly is tracking her boxing journey on Instagram at @aprilstingerkelly.