UB boxing head coach Kristen McMurtree aims to make club more accessible
Kristen McMurtree turned to boxing after struggling with bullying throughout high school. She started out as a track and cross-country runner but said the harassment became “so bad” she decided to quit the team.
But a boxing lesson during gym class helped her refocus her energy.
McMurtree has recently taken over as head coach of UB’s boxing club. She is a product of the club and was trained by the original founder, Dean Eoannou. She became the club’s first National Golden Glove champion under the direction of Eoannou.
Kristen McMurtree, a 20-year-old, signature red hair 112-pound champion, stands out as the club’s leader.
Boxing was once her “escape” and now as the head of the club, she wants to help influence others.
“I was angry and I was kind of lost and I just fell into boxing,” McMurtree said. “I see what this club does for so many kids and I see how I’m supposed to be used to help these kids and build that family and build that safe haven that I had in the very beginning.”
She signed up for her first boxing club, but wasn’t there for long before she transferred to UB’s club because of Eoannou and the reputation he built. In his tenure as the head of the club, Eoannou coached over 30 Golden Gloves champions.
McMurtree struggled to get the coach’s attention at first. Eoannou placed a larger emphasis on fighters that had proved their dedication.
Members of the club said this is one of the biggest differences in Eoannou’s and McMurtree’s coaching styles.
“A major difference I see between her running it and when Dean was running it is a lot more active participation with the newer people,” said assistant coach Tyler Kruse. “When Dean was running it there was a core group of people… now there’s a lot more returning people who are more interested in it.”
Kruse is another student of Eoannou’s. The freshman started training with Eoannou when he was eight years old and is an 11-year veteran of the club. Kruse and McMurtree are prime examples of UB Boxing being open to anyone and everyone.
McMurtree proudly represents UB boxing, but the 20-year-old exercise science and sports science double major attends D’Youville College, not UB.
“Anyone’s welcome at UB boxing,” McMurtree said. “It’s cool because we have a lot of new and upcoming boxers. Little Jimmy is one of them, he doesn’t actually go to college, obviously because he’s 10, but he had his first fight already.”
Making the club more accessible to all skill levels goes beyond McMurtree. Eoannou was very open to all levels of competitors, but had very little assistance in his time at the club and had no choice but to focus on members who had proved their dedication because he had been “burned” by people who would practice for a week or two and then never come back.
McMurtree has the fortunate circumstance of having a very active e-board.
“It was basically one person supporting the entire club,” Kruse said. “Now you have officers who are actively participating and splitting people up to do group oriented stuff, pushing each other in workouts, there was really none of that with Dean because he tried it so many times and it kept failing.”
Treasurer Brayton Connard said he has noticed the club has a better retention rate than it used to. Like many exercise related activities, the club tends to start the semester with a lot of members but that number dwindles quickly when people realize the difficulty of the sport and even just the workouts.
Connard, in his third year in the club, said only four or five people whom he started with even finished the first semester. That number has since increased and a recent Tuesday night practice had over 25 fighters going through footwork drills, hitting the mitts and even getting some time in the ring for their first sparring sessions.
“As an e-board member I couldn’t be more pleased with [McMurtree] as the coach,” Connard said. “She has been excellent and I think the whole atmosphere of the club has improved noticeably since she’s been the coach.”
McMurtree will be competing April 15 for her third Golden Gloves title at the Buffalo RiverWorks.
Daniel Petruccelli is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org