Eplion to fight for title belt in Huntington

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Ken Artrip didn't know what kind of talent Nikki Eplion displayed. Once he saw her, he knew it was something special.

"She's got beauty, ability and brains," Artrip said. "And she hits like a guy. Charlie (Hanshaw) taught her to box and Nikki has come a long way in the last year. She can go a long way, but it takes money. That's why we formed a corporation."

And so the Tri-State Boxing Corporation was born and included Artrip, Hanshaw, Craig Slone, Jimmy Gibbs and Eplion herself.

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"It's protection," said Artrip, a promoter and stockholder Ken

of Ashland, Ky. "We wanted her to do this. We wanted her to have a say in her career. If we can get the community behind it, we can go a long way. "

The 6-foot, 165-pound Eplion plans to go a long way, but for now she is just happy to have a fight in front of the Tri-State fans.

"I just wanted to fight in my hometown," Eplion said. "I just want to be a positive person."

Getting to fight in her hometown became a reality when Eplion became part of the Tri-State Boxing Corp. Eplion has a partnership with TSBC and participates in making decisions.

The WIBA No. 2- ranked middleweight Eplion will fight Tiffany Carter of Columbus in the main event Saturday, Dec. 6, at Memorial Field House. Carter is ranked sixth in the WIBA. At stake will be the Tri-State Boxing Commission championship belt.

"She's a tough fighter. It'll be a good match," Eplion said.

But Eplion wants the fight to be a tune-up for what she hopes will be her next match in about six or seven months, a shot at the WIBA belt that is currently held by Laila Ali, daughter of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.

"The bottom line is the most important thing is to bring back a title," Eplion said. "My goal is to be on the cover of SI (Sports Illustrated) after giving Laila Ali her first loss."

Eplion is a mother of two boys, Kyle, 5, and Ryan, 3. She also works as certified pharmacy technician at Kings Daughters' Medical Center and teaches the skill at the Ashland Community and Technical College.

"I'm hungry. I have a family. That's why I'll succeed, because I'm not like any other boxer," Eplion said. "I already have something to fall back on. I'll let my actions speak for me. My belt speaks for me."

Eplion is 13-0-2 with nine knockouts after winning the Texas WIBA belt in August. She said switching to Westwood (Ky.) Boys Club legendary boxing trainer Charlie Hanshaw has elevated her skills.

"I'm using more of my God-given ability," Eplion said. "I believe boxers are born, not made. But Charlie has made me become a better boxer. I couldn't stay where I was at, I had to be taught how to become a world champion."

Hanshaw, who is another stockholder, said making a few adjustments and teaching the ins-and-outs of boxing helped Eplion become more than just a heavy hitter who always ended up going toe-to-toe and using a big left hand to register knockouts.

"This kid has a lot of skills she hasn't used. Now when they watch the film, they won't see the things she is doing now. You've got to use more than big punches. You've got to use more than that or it's going to be a short career."

Winning the Texas belt proved to be a prime example of teamwork. Not only was Hanshaw her trainer, former Gold Gloves boxer Elvis Rister spent many hours sparring with Eplion.

"Charlie and Elvis Rister where the reason I won," Eplion said. "Charlie taught me to jab and go for the body. I used to use only my big left hand. Everyone knows that. All I used to do was one-two, one-two.

"Elvis came in an sparred every night. He even fought left-handed to get me ready. I couldn't have won without his help."

The fight card will include Ashland, Ky., native Mike Armstrong. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound heavyweight will be making his hometown debut.

Also on the card are two full contact karate kick boxing matches and seven amateur Golden Gloves boxing bouts.

Tickets for the event are $20 for ringside, $12 for general admission, and $7 for 14 and under. Tickets are available at Memorial Field House and all TicketMaster locations.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Fights begin at 8 p.m