Dyersville native Olivia Meyer, a kinesiology major, discovered the sport of boxing while attending ISU’s annual “Clubfest” showcase her freshman year. She played soccer in high school, she says, and wanted to find a collegiate pursuit that would allow her to keep up her fitness and perhaps give her a chance to compete. Today, Meyer is president of the ISU Boxing Club, the club’s lone female competitor, a National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national champion, and a Glamour magazine “Phenomenal Woman of the Year Who is Making a Difference.” VISIONS recently caught up with Meyer to find out what drives her in the sport of boxing.
With all the clubs and activities available on campus, what made you choose boxing?
A lot of people ask me that question, and I don’t have a fantastic answer. I think I was inspired by the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” because I love Clint Eastwood. So it was just an itsy bitsy spark – not a huge flame. But I went over to the practices and just kind of hit it off.
What was it like walking into the boxing club as a novice?
Initially, it is intimidating. But once you figure out you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of other people like you who just want to learn how to box, and everybody is really nice about it, everything is okay. Some people are just there for the workout – and that’s okay, too, and a lot of people drop out. But eventually you actually have to work with partners and spar – that’s the whole point of boxing, you know. We have maintained about five people who officially compete, and I am the only woman. The first couple of times you’re sparring, it’s awful. After the first time I got into the ring I didn’t want to do it again because I just felt like, “Wow, I’m awful. I’m terrible.” But it just takes practice.
So, if you’re the only woman in the club who spars, does that mean you practice against men who are larger than you are?
Yep; I have to. Sometimes you have to tell them to slow down or stop, but they’re pretty good about it. If you tell them to step off, they’ll step off. But I’ve ripped my eardrum several times, had a bloody nose, lip, you know – what you’d expect.
What does it take to train as a competitive boxer?
You have to come two hours a day, six to seven days a week, and then you also have to train outside of practice with high intensity cardiovascular training, muscle training, and endurance training. I’d say I put in about three to four hours a day just training for boxing, and that’s a significant amount. It’s demanding, but if you like it I think it’s worth it.
Tell us about winning the NBCA title.
Well, I competed against the same girl at regionals and nationals because there aren’t many girls in the sport. So just realize that, compared to the guys who had to fight four or five guys to get there, I didn’t have to do as much. The competition was held in Eisenhower Hall on the military base at West Point, so everything was high security and intense. They had videocameras and CBS television there and they interviewed me after – which was good, because my family was able to watch it on TV when it aired.
How does your family feel about you boxing?
My dad has four girls and is the only guy in our family, so I think he’s happy about it. But obviously, none of them like to see me get hurt. I don’t think Mom could ever watch it; she’s still supportive, but she doesn’t want to watch it.
How did you end up in Glamour magazine?
I got an email from the freelancer, who was looking for women from each state to feature. I immediately called my mom. She laughed and said, “Well, Glamour’s not really your magazine – but go for it.”
You have said it is difficult to find fights. Do you wish more women would enter the sport?
I would love to see more women enter the sport. It’s upsetting to see so many people sign up and be super excited and come to practice but eventually fade away. It’s like, “Nooooo! Come back!” But we see the same number of men get excited, too, and drift away for the same reasons. While I think women leave the sport at the same rate as men do, I do think because of male physiology it’s a little easier for [men] to work at the high intensity without going through muscle atrophy. You definitely have to put in a lot of work.
What do you love about boxing?
I actually really like training for it. But I also do like the moment before you get in the ring and have all the adrenaline rushing through you. I get scared before every fight. I get nervous. Once you step in the ring, you just get tunnel vision. It’s you and the opponent; everything else around you is a blur for that 10 minutes that you’re in there. It’s a really cool experience.”