From pitches to punches
Late-blooming boxer Drysdale uses athletic college background to her advantage
As she was deciding whether to launch herself into this new sport, the checklist of questions that might’ve helped determine if she’d be any good at it contained some obvious holes. Had she ever been in a fight? “Never,” she says. Had she ever been punched in the face? “Never.” Had she ever hit anyone else? “Never.” So it’s fair to say Micayla Drysdale wasn’t exactly the kind of person you’d expect to walk through the door of a Hamilton boxing gym on a chilly November day looking to start a boxing career. Mike Tyson she wasn’t. The one thing she had going for her was an abundance of athleticism.
By the time the St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary grad had finished university five years ago, she’d had the kind of basketball career against which future players are measured. While on scholarship at Canisius College in Buffalo, she’d been team captain twice. She’d played more games than anyone else, was a prolific three-point shooter with the second-highest accuracy from distance in school history, and was named to the allacademic team three times. During one stretch in her senior season, she even drained 23 consecutive free throws.
“I had a pretty decent career there,” the 27-year-old says, understating the case. “It was fun.”
But basketball doesn’t last forever. Not at that level, anyway. So when she graduated, she went looking for something else to scratch her competitive itch. That’s when soccer called.
She’d played the game growing up. In fact, she’d been a star there, too. As a result, it wasn’t much of a transition getting back to it and playing centre midfield for Hamilton Sparta in the high-level Ontario Women’s Soccer League. Which would’ve been the latest chapter of her sporting story if not for that scrimmage last April.
With nobody around her, she pivoted one way and her leg went the other.
“My whole knee just kind of blew out,” she says.
By the time she got to the hospital, she learned she’d torn her meniscus, shredded her ACL, sustained first-degree sprains of her MCL and LCL, and fractured both her tibia and fibula. The contents of her leg were essentially the anatomical equivalent of beef stew.
Eight inactive months and a major surgery later, she started going to the gym to work her way back into shape. That’s where she was spotted by Kylie Angel.
The competitive boxer — she’s been a winner of the Ontario amateur championship — who also happens to be a coach, noticed Drysdale hobbling around. Despite the limping, she thought this newcomer looked like an athlete. So she asked her if she’d like to give boxing a try.
Somehow this invitation sounded good despite the fact that her sporting past involved nothing that involved any form of combat or even hard-hitting collisions.
“I was missing that competitive rush,” Drysdale says. “Getting that aggression out.”
So she showed up at Steeltown Boxing Club and started learning how to fight. First with no opponent. Then a couple months into training, she decided to make the leap and step into the ring to spar.
Every new fighter is anxious about getting hit for the first time. It’s unquestionably scary. She was no different. Yet when that initial blow landed, she was shocked it didn’t hurt. The first one she delivered, on the other hand, did have an impact. Not on her. On the other woman. A stiff, straight right blasted her opponent on the forehead and stunned her.
It was an eye-opener. She might be pretty good at this. When the session was over, Drysdale couldn’t wait to get back in there and do it again. A passion had been born. One she describes as empowering and exciting.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” she says. “I’m a little odd in that sense.”
A few months on, after another session, her coach pulled her aside and mentioned that a spot had opened on a fight card in May. Angel told her she’d caught on quickly and was ready to take the next step. If she wanted to train for that, she’d help get her ready.
The supply teacher by day sat down with her parents — both who’d had some reservations about her getting into boxing in the first place, mom more than dad — and asked what they thought. Both said she shouldn’t do it.
“So I spoke to Kylie and said, ‘We’re good to go,’” she laughs.
Sadly, the fight fell apart. But it’s just a matter of time. She and her rebuilt knee and her newly chiseled body will be in a ring with a real opponent in a real fight, soon.
Based on her past track record of success in sports, it’ll be difficult not to like her chances of finishing that night — whenever that is — with her arm raised.
I was missing that competitive rush. Getting that aggression out.
Micayla Drysdale, right, hits the pads with trainer Kylie Angel. Drysdale is a former university basketball star-turned-soccer player-turned-boxer.
Micayla Drysdale is a late-blooming boxer. She was afraid to get her first punch but was surprised it didn’t hurt.