Boxing

Boxer Amy Broadhurst - Ireland's most successful with 15 national medals

The Democrat speaks to Amy about her career, her titles and boxing dreams

Caoimhín Reilly

Reporter:

Caoimhín Reilly

Email:

caoimhin.reilly@dundalkdemocrat.ie

Boxer Amy Broadhurst - Ireland's most successful with 15 national medals

Amy Broadhurst. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)

One wonders if Amy Broadhurst cares much for the band, 'the Saw Doctors'. The topic never arose. Though, one's gut feeling is that she doesn't as 'to win just once' is not her style.

More successful than Taylor. More successful than them all. The most successful.

The golden girl of Dun Dealgan Boxing Club, Broadhurst, has 15 national titles to her name and considering her 21st birthday is still some time away, she's likely to add to her family's collection of 30 in all.

The Broadhursts - Paul, Tony, Stephen and Amy - have achieved feats unheard of before now. Each have won national boxing titles, but, most significantly, Amy has attained half of that collection.

"To know that you're the only girl in Ireland, including Katie Taylor, to have 15 Irish titles is a great achievement," she says of the feat.

"I don't go around show-boating about it, but I know that even if I go and get beaten 10-times in a row, nobody can take those titles away from me."

Last Sunday week, Broadhurst laid to rest some demons having claimed the Irish 60kg title at U22 level at the National Stadium. Her victory over Dublin's Nicole Moorehouse was stylish and impressive, and, as previously mentioned, led to her picking up a record 15th national gold. However, perhaps more significantly, it finally made her let go of the disappointment she suffered on her last visit to the venue.

"The last time I boxed in the stadium, I had been beaten," she said.

"The first 15-seconds was just about relaxing and from there I was quite comfortable. The girl I boxed had Irish titles and had represented Ireland as well so it was a good win for me."

Amy is the modest type, never over-hyping victory. She feels this is perhaps why her achievements are somewhat undervalued in the sense that she has no sponsorship or boxing-related income of any sort.

However, despite Amy's reluctance to express the magnitude of her continued success, her father - and coach - Tony explains the sheer dedication of his daughter to boxing.

"You see all the hard work that is put in, the dedication and, as I said, if anyone wins one, that's an enormous achievement, but between the four of them we have 30; that's never been done before by a family so when you sit back and think about it, it's incredible.

"Of the four of them, Amy has dedicated her life to it. I mean she has been throwing punches since she was five-years-old," he quipped.

"But, out of them all, she's the only one who has made it her life and having coached here in Dealgan for 18-years, I've never come across one boxer who has made it their life. Everybody would go to College, get a job, etc. Amy is just totally focused on boxing, though, and I'll be delighted when she gets her rewards because people only see the win and the performance, they don't see the running up the mountains, the forests, the running tracks. It's twice a day, six-days a week for her. Nobody sees that, they just see the end product.

"All of her achievements have been matched by really hard work," he said.

Finance and sponsorship ultimately play a huge part in such an undertaking, however, and, despite her precocious talent and unrelenting dedication, Amy is lacking terribly in this department.

While the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) make available monthly payments to certain individuals, in order for Amy to avail of this, she has to win the elite championships later this year, while even victory there would see her wait until 2019 to receive the funding.

"What she's achieved and she's never got sponsorship, never got any money whatsoever and I know of so many male and female boxers who have got companies sponsoring them. They have got a wage coming in and there's Amy - the most successful young boxer in the history of the sport in Ireland - who has never got a penny," her father said ruefully.

There is also the expectancy that, if Amy continues her upward curve, she will present herself in Abbotstown on a daily basis to work in the IABA's high-performance suites. However, only if she medals in either the upcoming European or World Championships would they grant her support funding.

Her elder brother Stephen received a call-up from the IABA to work under them. But their insistence that he give-up full-time employment in exchange for their offer - despite no subsidence availability - has ultimately led to him rejecting the proposal.

Nonetheless, her aim, like that of Stephen's, is to reach the Olympics.

"Since I was a young girl, it's been all about (reaching) the Olympics.

"When I was 12, I went over to Holland and England in the space of two-weeks and got beaten both times and it's been since then that I've actually dedicated myself to it; training hard and doing everything properly. I got to Europeans (winning three gold medals over her duration) and Worlds and was a lot stronger than the girls my age, but since I entered the elite stages last year, I've found that that wasn't the case anymore."

Indeed, Amy has self-admittedly learned the hard way in recent times. Having moved to London in April 2016, her progress suffered. Repeatedly asked if the absence of her father, who has coached her since the beginning, was the missing variable, it began to hit home just how much their relationship meant. Their bond may even have grown closer during their tenure apart.

"I think, if anything, our bond grew closer when I was away. I missed them and I think they missed me."

And, after a giggle, her father's response was telling.

"I think that it was only when Amy went over to England that she realised how much was done for her here. Instead of me driving her to the forest or the club or the running track, she was having to get buses around London to get to training and sometimes she wouldn't be home until late at night.

"She also had to cook for herself in London and look after her diet, whereas that's mostly done for her here and I think that hit home with her, and I suppose I missed her a wee bit at times!"

Amy may not regret her move to London, though it's clear she wasn't as successful as she perhaps could have been had she been in the surroundings she was used to, alongside her father.

While boxing in the British elite categories, her build-up rendered her unable to reach her peak, according to Tony.

"I think that's the biggest thing that Amy found when she was in England, and she talks about losing in the elites, but there's actually good reason behind it as, when she won her last European gold medal, she spent a year or a year-and-a-half where she'd go that heavy, every time she went to prepare for a tournament she was having to take weight off. You're meant to prepare to put weight on to perform at your best and, with all of this, she wasn't her normal sharp, fast and fit self."

A point which Amy took up.

"Last year, I went to New York before the elites and I came home and started training at 71kg, I had to lose 11kg in eight-weeks and that's not muscle. My performances suffered as a result, no doubt."

But, when asked if the victories made up for the physical torture of making weight, she was in no uncertain place.

"I remember two-years ago at the Europeans, I was boxing at 57kg and it was horrible for me to make (the weight).

"I had a sweatsuit on underneath my clothes and I had to train twice the night before my European final. I was nearly crying I was that frustrated because there wasn't much left on me left to lose.

"I weighed in right on the limit, but after I won I had this feeling that, you know, it was all worth it.

“I've never turned around and said that I'd rather not train and not win. I'd rather train all night and win," she said.

While the winning and medalling was the main topic of debate, the challenges linked to reaching your peak performance on the most coveted stages was also discussed.

The mental aspect of sport has risen to prominence in years gone by and this is an area where Amy is weaker, according to Tony.

"Amy is so emotional with winning and losing. I mean she has made more retirements than you can count. If she loses, she takes it that bad that normally the first thing out of her mouth is: 'I've had enough, I'm not boxing anymore'.

"I've heard that time and time again because she puts so much pressure on herself and 'she has to win' and when she doesn't, it's just like a big bubble bursting to bits.

"I remember a World Championships where she boxed, but didn't prepare great mentally. She won her first contest, but lost her second and retired on the spot and within three-weeks she was 20-pounds heavier."

He continued: "Over the years, Amy would be one of the most talented female boxers that you would ever come across.

Mentally, though, she could throw a few wobblies , but I don't take it from her. I know what she can achieve and what she is capable of doing, and if she wants to turn around and talk a load of rubbish about not being good enough, I just tell her straight out what I think, walk away and then she responds. The only time Amy has lost is when she has lost mentally."

This type of emotion, in Amy's case especially, has garnered a close relationship with those around her. Her father apart, she was keen to name-check Anto Donnelly - "a key motivator" - and someone who she can rely upon in her corner.

The late Jim O'Connor was another trusted ally and mentor to her, so much so that she put one of her national medals with him as he was laid to rest.

Her mother, Sheila, is also a strong advocator, even if she does bore at the sound of 'boxing chat' at home.

"Dad and me are non-stop talking about boxing and sometimes she says 'shut up', I'm sick hearing about boxing," Amy chuckled.

"But, no matter where I've gone in the world, Thailand, Poland, Taiwan, etc, they're always there and she is really supportive."

However, while her mother attends every bout, she must keep her distance!

"She gets so, so nervous," Tony says. "When they box, she's not allowed to be near them. She'll walk around the stadium and when it's over she'll be the first one over to them.

"But she loves it, I know she gets fed up of us talking about it 24/7, but she loves it and the winning means just as much to her as me or Amy or any of the boys."

As pointed out previously, 2018 is a big year for Amy and, having recovered from a hand-break, she has started on a winning note.

In April, she hopes to travel to Romania for the U22 European Championships in search of a place in May's EUBC Women's European Boxing Championships in Poland - the venue of which was the setting for her first European title.

Her schedule, though, is geared towards peaking for the year-ending elites where her Olympic dream will either become more of a reality or ended altogether.

She hopes to repeat Taylor's route of a successful Olympics followed by a shot at the professional game and the riches that that brings. This, despite Taylor not exactly being her flavour of the month. American Canelo Alvarez is instead her model of choice.

Amy doesn't remember her first day training at Dealgan, though there is footage of her first fight, when she boxed a boy.

"I remember my first fight. I was warming up for about two-hours with the gum-shield in my mouth and Mum says: 'Why don't you go and do ballet or something'

"I didn't win, but I boxed well in my first fight and I went over to the camera and said: 'Nothing is going to stop me boxing'.

That's when I was six-or-seven-years-old; my two front teeth were missing and I had a little lisp," she laughs.

Perhaps RTÉ will broadcast the footage ahead of her Olympic medal presentation in 2020...