On Sunday, boxer and EUR master student Myrea van den IJssel delivered an unprecedented performance by winning her second championship in the Dutch national tournament. During her final bout at Topsportcentrum Rotterdam, she left no doubt as to who deserved the title. Van den IJssel couldn’t be happier.

“I only heard after the match that I was the first person ever to win the title twice in a row,” she says in the cosy canteen of her club RBV Crooswijk. “That makes me extra proud.”


Still, success didn’t come easy to the Health Care Management student. In April, she sustained a serious injury. And in the same period, she had to round off her Medicine bachelor programme – which proved more or less impossible to combine with her athletic activities. “This was my first fight in almost a year. I needed to train twice as hard as normal to get back to my former level.”

At first glance, you wouldn’t take Van den IJssel for your typical boxer. But looks can be deceiving. “My strongest point is my offensive style: it tends to overwhelm my opponents.” And Van den IJssel doesn’t have many other options, because she is relatively small for her weight class (up to 69 kg). “My opponents have a far longer reach than I have. Which means I have to get up close to force an opening.” And this tactic clearly paid off in her final match against the far taller Heleen Van de Water. The jury was unanimous: 3-0 for Van den IJssel.


The freshly-proclaimed champion only started boxing at age 17. Her father told her she had to get her vwo (pre-university education) diploma first. In the meantime, Van den IJssel was forced to find some other outlet. “I played tennis, but that didn’t suit me.”

Nevertheless, the 23-year-old had felt an affinity with boxing from a very young age. “When Myrea was three or four years old, she already came along when I went training,” says her extremely proud father John van den IJssel. Van den IJssel senior, who also used to fight at a very high level, presently works as Myrea’s trainer. “She wanted to put on boxing gloves straight away – she loved it. That’s how my daughter ended up in this sport.” Some 20 years later, the two still train together at a small but friendly boxing club in the heart of Crooswijk. As the father of not one but two boxing children, the 59-year-old has to fend off quite a few punches from his offspring.

Van den IJssel deelt een stoot uit aan haar trainer. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Big kiss

Some people say that fathers shouldn’t coach their children. Myrea disagrees. “My father knows exactly how best to approach me. I often get a bit worked up; so I don’t want a coach who is all nervous as well. At moments like that, my father tends to be really relaxed – and that calms me down too.”

Van den IJssel senior: “I see it straight away if there’s something going on with my daughter. For example, on Sunday, she had to go the toilet right before the final. Normally, she doesn’t do that. She was extremely tense,” he recalls with a concerned look on his face. “In moments like that, I keep calm and try to mentally prepare Myrea for the fight. At a certain point, she starts believing in herself again, and the nerves subside. At the end of the match, when she’s out of the ring again, I give her a big kiss – as her father this time.”


Van den IJssel junior wants to follow in the footsteps of her hero Nouchka Fontijn – who won silver in Rio this summer – and compete in the Olympics. “I’m aiming for Tokyo 2020. It isn’t out of the question.” Still, a lot of things need to happen before Myrea can qualify for the Olympic Games. “I’m going to start with a number of smaller international tournaments. If I put in a good performance, they’ll enter me in the European or World Championship.”