Boxing a lifelong obsession
Karli McCabe has always been a huge fan of boxing.
The 21-year-old St. Catharines resident watched it on television and viewed countless movies and documentaries about the sport, but she never stepped in the ring because her father, Ed, didn’t want her to participate in boxing.
“He told me I was a girl and I didn’t want to get my nose broken.”
McCabe listened to her father’s advice until she turned 19 on Dec. 28, 2016.
“On Jan. 4 (2017), I was here (St. Catharines Amateur Boxing Club) and my dad supports me,” said McCabe, who will fight TNT’s Dakota Urban in a 132-pound fight in the 2018 Niagara Legends Boxing Show Friday at the Merritton Community Centre in St. Catharines.
She admits her first foray into training to be a fighter was way harder than she ever imagined.
“I was on my knees looking up at the other people and asking ‘How can you do this?’ My calves were burning and for a month it was awful.
“I was thinking that I was never going to get good.”
McCabe now works out at the St. Catharines club four days a week and she loves the whole training environment.
“I like coming here and I like my coaches and I like bugging them,” she said. “It makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I am worth something and I feel like I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”
She highly recommends the sport to all females.
“You learn self defence, you get in shape and you feel good about yourself,” she said.
Two and a half years into her boxing career, McCabe has fought seven times. She sports a 3-4 record, but every one of her losses was by a split decision.
“I would always lose the last round because of my cardio,” she said.
She’s hoping that will be a thing of the past when she steps in the ring Friday.
“I have worked on my cardio every day for the past two months,” she said.
She has a rigorous schedule of road work that mixes sprints, climbing hills and long runs. That dedication to conditioning has paid off for the Sir Winston Churchill alumnus.
“Last Thursday, I did five straight rounds and I still wanted to go,” she said. “And I am not a very confident person, but that day I thought if I lose this Friday, I have done everything that I could.”
Improved cardio has allowed the southpaw to throw more combinations and in the ring she is switching up to go orthodox (normal stance for a right-handed boxer).
“It’s really cool,” she said. “It catches people off guard.”
McCabe won an Ontario Golden Gloves title at the end of 2016, but she wasn’t able to win another Golden Gloves title in 2017 because there were no other fighters in her weight category. This year, she will have enough fights under her belt to compete in the open division at the provincial championships.
“If I win, it will give me an opportunity to go to nationals, but I know it will be really hard because they are the Olympic qualifiers.”
Her ultimate goal is to compete at the Olympics, but she doesn’t want to think that far ahead.
“I’m taking it one year at a time because I did start pretty late,” she said, adding one Canadian fighter recently won a national title with only two years experience.
She feels while ring experience is important, cardio and other things are the most important components of success.
“There are girls with 60 fights, but girls with 12 fights can beat them. It’s all about who has the cardio and grit, who wants it more and who has been working for it.”
Friday’s fight will be the third time she has fought in her hometown. Last July in St. Catharines, gave her an opponent an eight count and was awarded the fight of the night.
“This time, I’m going for a stoppage.”
This is the first fight she has actively promoted, telling all her family, friends and coworkers at Tim Hortons to come support her.
“Its nerve-wracking, but it kind of makes me push a little more,” McCabe said. “I don’t want to let them down or let myself down especially.”
After his initial reluctance, her father has become her biggest fan.
“At my first exhibition, he told me as soon as I jumped in the ring sweat just started pouring down his face, but I have improved a lot and he is a lot better.”
Away from the ring, McCabe is planning to attend Niagara College this fall to study electric techniques with hopes of landing an apprenticeship.
Other SCBC fighters on the Friday card (which is subject to change) are: Matt Ryan in a 124-pound bout versus Ireland’s Troy Bell; James Hughes in a 162-pound fight against Casals’ Nico Ciritto; Gerry Ryan in a 142-pound fight versus Stockyards’ Michael Quach; Dennis Steingart in a 165-pound fight versus Stockyards’ Kofe Sarpong; Stephen Ryan in a 135-pound fight against Ireland’s Callum Toland; Jake Isenor in a 152-pound fight versus Ireland’s Bryan McNamee; and, Dan Ryan in a 154-pound fight against Ireland’s Tom Stokes.
The card is being held at the Merritton Community Centre and doors open at 7:30 p.m.