By David J. Hill
When Wendy Casey (BA ’08) first walked into the UB Boxing Club training room, she was all smiles and pigtails—a classic giddy freshman. Dean Eoannou, the club’s coach and trainer, refused to let her box. “He didn’t think I had what it took. I had to beg him for months to let me in the ring, and when he finally did he had me spar with a 12-year-old,” Casey recalls with a laugh.
Eoannou and many others soon learned that Casey’s sweet demeanor outside the ring belied her boxing prowess in it. “I had her pegged all wrong,” remembers Eoannou.
A smart, savvy boxer, Casey, who had wrestled in her Binghamton high school but never boxed before college, soon became the club’s most successful female fighter. By the time she graduated, her name was written all over the training room walls in celebration of her 20 amateur victories, including three New York State Golden Gloves titles and a U.S. Nationals silver medal. “She fought 27 fights and never had a nosebleed,” Eoannou says.
Though boxing was Casey’s life at UB—“I arranged my schedule around it,” she says—she left it behind after college. Now 28, she’s a middle school math teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools and also teaches an after-school program. Asked how she could give up her passion for boxing so completely, she sighs. “Adult life gets in the way.”
Or does it?
Earlier this year, Eoannou called Casey to ask for her help in training Hannah Krueger, a promising sophomore boxer. Casey leapt at the chance and has been thoroughly enjoying passing on her knowledge. “As a fighter, I can see her weaknesses better in the ring than Dean can, because he’s not allowed to spar with them,” Casey says. “I kept getting this one punch in on her and she said, ‘How’re you doing that? Can you show me?’”
Training Krueger has been so rewarding, it’s gotten Casey thinking about scheduling her first bout in six years—which seems especially plausible now that there’s talk of holding boxing matches at UB. Her plan is to use her summer to get back into fighting shape and find an opponent.
“Being in the gym, in that environment, it just sucks me in,” says Casey. “It’s like my home away from home.”