D’Youville’s fiery-haired boxer stars in latest Goo Goo Dolls video

InterviewJune 3, 2016The Buffalo News

D’Youville College students will instantly recognize the star of the latest Goo Goo Dolls video, “So Alive.”

The boxer with the blazing red-orange hair is a familiar sight on campus.

Her name is Kristen McMurtree, a 2013 Alden High School graduate who will enter her senior year at D’Youville in the fall.

McMurtree is well-known on the campus of 3,200 students for her distinctive hair color and for her impressive skills in the boxing ring. She won the 2015 Women’s National Golden Gloves in the 112-pound weight class and is training for a shot at the 2020 Olympics. The dietetics major also teaches boxing at D’Youville and at the University at Buffalo’s South Campus.

In the video, shot mostly in and around the abandoned Central Terminal on Buffalo’s East Side, McMurtree’s boxer character climbs a fence to get inside the celebrated old train station, shadow boxes and eventually squares off against herself in a ring, with snow gently falling around her.

“It looks awesome,” said McMurtree, who viewed the finished video for the first time when Amazon launched it online Friday. She’s been fielding phone calls from friends and family ever since.

Shots of McMurtree are interspersed with clips of the band playing inside the Central Terminal. Another local boxer, Wendy Casey, plays McMurtree’s body double in scenes where McMurtree appears to be boxing against herself.

McMurtree, whose contact information was listed on a Facebook page for the UB boxing club, got a call in the early spring from the Buffalo production company dPost, which was searching for a woman boxer with an edgy look. Did she know anyone?

McMurtree didn’t have to think long.

“I told her I think I’d be good for the part,” she said.

As it turns out, McMurtree was exactly who they were looking for.

Filming happened over two days in late April, including one that began at 5 a.m. and stretched 14 hours.

The boxing scenes went smoothly, McMurtree said, but because it was cold outside, she struggled climbing the chain-link fence, and the director kept asking for more takes.

“I was freezing. My hands were sore,” she said. “The last time, I straight up fell. My fingers were numb.”

Still, McMurtree said the filming was “so cool” and “definitely the best experience ever.”

The Goo Goo Dolls, she added, have been wonderful to her, inviting her backstage at their recent show inside 716. They recently asked her to join them for tacos from Lloyd Taco Truck when they’re all back in town again, she said.

A day after wrapping up the shoot, McMurtree fought a three-time Canadian national champion in Depew and beat her.

McMurtree started boxing as a senior in high school, when she struggled with personal issues. She joined Goomba’s Boxing Club in Lancaster with the goal of getting in a ring and trading punches as soon as possible.

“A lot of people are there for fitness. I told them, ‘I want to fight. I want to compete,’ ” she recalled.

Eventually, she ended up at the UB boxing club, where she realized she still had a lot to learn about boxing. Early on, boxing coach Dean Eoannu tried to dissuade McMurtree from competition, figuring she wouldn’t have the time to commit. But he quickly came to a realization.

“She just wasn’t going away,” he said. “Finally, I said I have to give her a shot.”

McMurtree’s first fight was in 2014 in Syracuse, and she has fought a total of 11 times, including a knockout win over a French boxer at the National Golden Gloves in Fort Lauderdale last July. She is training to defend her title next month.

Ultimately, she aspires to represent the United States in the 2020 Olympics. Women’s boxing was added to the Games in 2012.

McMurtree enjoys teaching boxing almost as much as fighting. Last fall, she started a twice weekly boxing class at D’Youville that attracted more than a dozen other students, mostly women.

Jaelisse Lopez, a freshman psychology major, saw a flier for the classes and was intrigued. She began showing up and quickly became hooked, in no small measure because of McMurtree.

“She’s a college student herself. She’s a girl. She knows how to relate to us so well,” Lopez said. “She’s so petite and small, but so powerful and fierce.”

Lopez said the class “gave me a sense of girl power and strength.”

She’s even thought about climbing in the ring, too, although “probably I wouldn’t take it as far as Kristen has,” Lopez said.

McMurtree is so good at teaching the finer points of the sweet science that Eoannu recruited her to help him train new boxers at the UB club.

She “gets respect from big street guys,” said Eoannu. “To get into the ring, you have to go through her. Her fundamentals are perfect.”

Eoannu isn’t surprised by the heavy interest in D’Youville’s boxing class. He said many women are drawn to the sport, and not just because of the fitness aspect of it.

“They might not want to compete, but they want to be able to defend themselves,” he said. “We train them for that. Our girls will knock you out. They’ll break your nose in a minute. They can really blast you.”

McMurtree spends 50 to 60 hours a week training for fights, working out at least twice a day, including running, sparring and bag work. She said her parents initially were “really iffy” about her competing at the national level, but they’ve been very supportive of her since the resounding win in Florida.

“I feel like this was my calling,” she said. “It has to be.”