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Local boxer Mikenna Tansley fighting for Canadian title on U.S. card

Fighting for a Canadian title outside of Chicago seems crazy, but it’s where she could get on a card amid COVID-19 restrictions back home

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Mikenna Tansley is a graphic designer who moonlights as a boxer.

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Yeah, getting punched in the face doesn’t square with being creative director for a Calgary-based company. But the 29-year-old — who once was a midget triple-A goalie in Sherwood Park, playing and training with Western Hockey League juniors in the summer months — stepped into the ring as an amateur five years ago and has since had three pro fights, with the next one on tap for the Canadian bantamweight championship.

So, she’s used to taking some punishment?

“Exactly. I’ve always been a little out there,” she said. “Had my first amateur fight when I was 24. Stepping into the ring seemed so cool. I was doing it for fitness but I took a fight and now, here we are. They always say the first time you get punched in the face, you know it’s something you want to do or not. I don’t think I’ve ever been scared. I have been intimidated, and nervous about losing. But scared? No.”

She had 30 fights as an amateur, losing only three times, and will be in Hammond, Ind., about 45 minutes from Chicago, June 19, scrapping for the Canadian title (118 pounds) against Shelly Barnett, from Oshawa, Ont. COVID-19 issues wouldn’t allow the fight in Canada.

“The first couple of fights I had as an amateur, I liked it. I only had seven fights when I was first at nationals and the girl I was fighting had 75, I believe. But I got second at nationals. I knew then my goal was the professional level,” she said.

‘Machine Gun’ Shelly Barnett, 37, has a 4-4-2 record as a pro, with her last bout in Flint, Mich., a March loss to storied fighter Marlen Esparza, the 2012 Olympic flyweight bronze medallist, also the subject of a 2011 CNN documentary.

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Tansley has only had three fights but is unbeaten, with ‘Mighty Mik’ shrugging off the experience angle like a flicked jab in the ring.

“I’ve always been the underdog because I started when I did, because of my age,” said Tansley, who manages to work the boxing around her real job. “I’m the creative director for a marketing firm called RGE Solutions. I’ve primarily done marketing for the oil and gas industry for six or seven years and just took on an additional volunteer role as director of communications for a Calgary-based energy company.

“I do graphic design for websites. With my degree, I’ve done graphic, furniture, medical design. I worked as a furniture designer and lived in the Philippines for six months.

“My days are pretty busy, they start fairly early and end pretty late. I usually start about six in the morning and end about 11:30 at night. I still find time to do two training sessions a day. There’s a lot of discipline. I believe I can do both, because they’re two things I’m very passionate about and will make sacrifices for. I’m very fortunate to have a boxing team that supports everything I have to do, and work supports me anyway I need it.”

Tansley fought on Jelena Mrdjenovich’s last two cards in Edmonton.

“We were sparring partners which was great. You definitely learn a lot, she’s got lots of good tips going from amateur to the pros,” she said.

Fighting for a Canadian title outside of Chicago seems crazy, but it’s where she could get on a card, and also where Barnett has some history. It’s a 19-bout card and her bantamweight fight is eight rounds. Her other fights have been four.

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“Definitely not what the original vision was (location-wise). But the whole world is upside down right now and we’re really fortunate we’re getting this opportunity, even if it’s in the U.S.,” said Tansley, who has won once on a TKO and the other two by decision as a pro. “We’re going there to do Canada proud and hopefully things will open up here. We tried cards in Edmonton but it’s just not possible with all the (health) regulations. Since COVID, maybe there’s been three fight cards in Canada and we’ve tried to get on them but couldn’t.”

“Shelly and I have been trying to fight each other for awhile. She’s got the title at the weight I fight at and we just said, ‘Why don’t we fight there?’’’

The June 19 fight ($4.99 U.S.) will be streamed on the ISC Sports Network.

“This is a girl who breaks the mould, from Sherwood Park, played high-end hockey most of her life and is a graphic designer. Usually, we get a lot of fighters and this is what they do. It’s very rare to have somebody like Mikenna,” said Tansley’s coach at Alliance Boxing Club, John Mandoza. “Shelly is from Oshawa, but has a girl who is in school there (in Chicago), so it made sense to have it there.

“She could have fought outside her (weight) range but we bided our time for something like this.”

How long does she want to do this for?

“As long as I’m at the top of my game, I’ll keep at it,” Tansley said. “I’ll retire when my body says it’s time. I’ll know.”

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl

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