Melissa Querrey, a College senior double majoring in Biology and Religion, is an amateur boxer. She began boxing casually in order to stay fit after an injury from rugby. Querrey is also a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, which surprises most people who are familiar with her boxing career. She sat down with the Emory Wheel to discuss more about how she discovered the sport, the challenges of being a girl boxer and people’s perception of her as a sorority girl boxer. After graduating this spring, she plans to attend medical school at Northwestern University in the fall.

Emory Wheel: How long have you been boxing? How did you discover the sport?

Melissa Querrey: I started last year in February of 2015 after I broke my foot playing rugby and ended up with a boot on my foot. So I would stand there and hit a punching bag at this gym. After that, the coach kind of took me under his wing and started training me a little bit. Then I got really into it after the cast came off and started training really heavily. So yeah, it’s been about a year now.

EW: What’s your favorite thing about the sport? Your greatest challenge?

Melissa Querrey: My favorite thing about boxing, I think, is that it challenged me a lot personally. When I first came to college, I was actually a cheerleader and I did not think I was athletic at all. I joined the rugby team, then I started boxing. It kind of made me go outside the box, a little bit outside of my comfort zone, and it challenges me mentally as well.  It’s just me in there. I don’t have a team to support me. It’s just me and my performance. So it’s challenging in that way but it’s what I love about it.

The most challenging part of it is that, you don’t really have anyone to rely on other than yourself so it’s all on you. I mean, you have coaches and trainers but your performance is all on you when you get in the ring. That’s the hardest part.

EW: How does that dependence on one’s self influence your performance?

Melissa Querrey: Well boxing is a totally different sport; it’s more like a muscle memory sport instead of soccer or football where you have set game plays and the other team may not know that. But in boxing, it’s way more about muscle memory and you don’t know how that other boxer fights. Especially in amateur, you don’t have a lot of film of the other boxer so you have no clue what you’re getting into when you get into the ring. So it’s such a different ball game than having preset notions of what you’re going to do. It kind of makes you think on your feet.

EW: Do you ever get nervous about being female in a field that’s male-dominated?

Melissa Querrey: At the gym where I train, there are no girls. It’s a little stigmatized, like I’m used to people saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m scared of you,” and people think it’s really funny but it’s really not that funny. So yeah, people look at you and think, “Oh my god, what are you doing to yourself?” and they see me, I’m 5”2’, I’m not a big person, and they kind of go, “You do that?”

EW: Does that motivate you to do better?

Melissa Querrey: Yeah. It makes me want to show them that I can do better than [them]. It’s kind of what makes it empowering. Yeah, it’s empowering to think that I can show them. You know, all my sparring partners are men so it’s empowering to [myself] so I don’t know if I can empower other people. But if I had the chance to, I would tell people, “You can do whatever you want.”

EW: Does being a girl in boxing offer any advantages, physically, mentally, etc.?

Melissa Querrey: When you box, you obviously go against females in the same weight class as you so it’s not really an advantage in that way. But height can play an advantage. I’m shorter than a lot of people but that’s just a side bar. But being a female, I know, specifically for the fight team I’m on, it’s like, “Ooh you’re such a badass.” I don’t know if there are many other advantages; maybe you get paid a little extra attention.

You can work on other skills since men have more power in their arms naturally but females actually tend to hit harder than men do because the torque comes from your hips, and women are usually a lot stronger in their lower half than men are. But I don’t think there’s too much of an advantage, because once you’re on a team, it’s mutual respect amongst everyone. But among the general populous, most people, when they see female boxers, they’re like, “Eeeh, scary…” or they expect someone to be super butch and muscular and I’m not. Just to attest, any body type can do what they want if they want to.

EW: I don’t know if a lot of people who know that you box also know that you’re in a sorority but that label, “sorority girl boxer,” obviously has terms that people wouldn’t immediately associate with one another.

Melissa Querrey: It’s actually really funny because when a lot of people first meet me, that’s not really the first thing I say. When they do find out I box, it will scare them off, so usually I don’t like to talk about school half the time. But a lot people are surprised when they hear that I am in a sorority because they don’t think that those two terms go together at all.  I don’t think boxing in general is a very popular sport.

However, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is on the rise right now and that’s actually why I started. I was training to do MMA, but since I’m going to medical school, I really need to focus [on] one thing, seeing as you have to train in multiple things if you want to do MMA. But I don’t mind being called [a sorority girl or a boxer] because I am both. I am in a sorority and I am a boxer so I don’t think there’s an issue.

EW: Do you associate yourself with one label, the sorority girl or the boxer, more than the other?

Melissa Querrey: I would definitely say boxing the most. I mean, I am in a sorority but I don’t think I’m necessarily “Go Greek” all the time. Boxing is so much more part of my life because it consumes a lot of my time. I’m either studying in the lab or I’m training for a fight. So yeah, boxing is a huge part of my life.

EW: Do you ever get annoyed when people point out how unusual it is that you’re a girl who boxes?

Melissa Querrey: Oh my God. All the time. I don’t really mind it, but they always think, “How… Why would you do that? Why would you box? You look more like a sorority girl.” But I’m just like, “I get it, I know, I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you? Get over it.” Everyone has different likes, and it is a little unique to have sorority women that want to box, or just women in general; it’s not really a popular sport, it’s intense. It’s not fun getting punched in the face. It’s a famous quote: “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in in the face for the first time.” Everything changes after that point, so yeah, in general, I’m so used to it at this point so when people ask me, “Whoa, you do that?” I just kind of think, “No shit.”        

EW: Have you used this recognition to empower you at all?

Melissa Querrey: At first, I was surprised people were noticing that it was unique and all that, but now it’s so part of my life, it’s ingrained in me. It’s not a shock anymore when people have that reaction. I’m kind of used to it, so I kind of just brush it off because boxing is for me, it’s not really for anyone else. I guess it is a performance for the people who are watching it, but really, it’s for you. People don’t want to watch you getting punched in the face.