Without doubt the current squad of Irish women boxers is the best there has ever been. No need to mention Katie Taylor of course whose feats on the International scene are legendary unlikely to be surpassed – other than perhaps by Katie Taylor!
It would though be wrong to believe that Katie is Ireland’s only medal hope in the future. Far from it in fact as there are now several excellent boxers, some very young like Ciara Ginty, Amy Broadhurst and Christina Desmond to name but three of many, others more experienced like Dervla Duffy, Lynne O’Shea,Clare Grace, Ceire Smith and Kelly Harrington yet Saturday night’s IABA Elite Finals night will feature some less well known (outside their home counties) potential champions of the future among them Belfast’s Fiona Nelson and Kerry’s Moira McElligott who boxes out of the Rathkeale club in Limerick. Later this week we will look at the prospects of McElligott against the vastly more experienced Harrington but today we meet Fiona Nelson who takes on the Garda club’s Diana Campbell in the 81kg+ final.
Coached by Terry McCorran at the City of Belfast Academy, Fiona joined the club some 18 months ago and only took up ‘the noble art’ a year ago after some persuasion.
McCorran told SportsNewsIreland that “Fiona is one of the most dedicated boxers I have had the pleasure to work with as she only had her competitive first bout at the Irish Novice Championships a few weeks ago - her Second was the Final of the Ulster Elite Championships and her third bout was the IABA Elite Semi-Final in Dublin”.
“To reach the Final of the All-Ireland Senior Elite Championships so soon is a massive achievement”. In that semi-final she overcame defending champion Monaghan’s Lianne McAree-Murphy who gained bronze at last year’s European Union championships in Hungary . Coach McCorran added that having boxed - and lost – to Lianne at the “Unite the Community’ Ulster Elite championships at the Europa Hotel, “Fiona and I worked on how to overcome her opponent’s ever changing style from orthodox to southpaw, Fiona stuck to the game plan and got a very well earned Unanimous Decision”.
Despite being a mere 32 Fiona continually laughs and jokes calling herself the ‘Granny of Boxing’ but her desire to keep improving will her coach believes see Fiona on the boxing scene for a fair few years yet saying : “ I believe this is only the start for Fiona. It’s a shame the Commonwealth Games and Olympics won’t give Female Boxers the full recognition they deserve and let them compete at all the same weight categories as the men”.
In the post- Olympic era, following Taylor’s Gold in London 2012 , women’s boxing is thriving in some areas of Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic though without doubt as we have said here time and time again, the IABA must provide more funding for women’s boxing if it is to succeed on the international stage. Taylor’s success should certainly have been used by the IABA to promote the sport throughout Ireland. It is to their eternal shame that it has not been and that so often it has proved necessary for the women themselves to find funding through such as the “Ignite the Night” concert prior to the EU’s last year. Indeed it is only due to the Taylors’ own efforts that Katie has been seen in places like Castlebar and Cork. Hopefully under new CEO, Fergal Carruth things will change – and soon.
So how many girls are at the very go-ahead City of Belfast Club? McCorran again: “ At the moment we have 12 girls boxing at the club from 7 years old right up to 35.” He is not alone, indeed is in the vast majority when – unprompted – he added “ Unless the IABA do something to help keep young girls in the sport and give them more opportunities it will be difficult to maintain the numbers let alone increase them. Female boxing in Northern Ireland is particularly difficult due to the lack of resources. I honestly believe the IABA missed a huge opportunity by not promoting Katie Taylor throughout the country after the Olympics ”.
So a ‘new kid on the blocks’ on Saturday night at the National Stadium – we wish Fiona and all the finalists well on this special night. But why oh why did the IABA choose to have the event over two nights with the men on Friday and the women on Saturday? Is that the way of promoting women’s boxing in the eyes of the IABA? The women’s finals isolated on the Saturday will certainly draw much fewer fans, even more so now that Katie Taylor’s opponent, the excellent Alanna Audley-Murphy has had to withdraw due to family bereavement. The IABA – like the AIBA – need to do more, much much more to promote the women’s sport and in the IABA’s case that means North and South so that all boxing fans in the country have the opportunity to see Taylor in action LIVE in their own province. Irish boxing does not begin and end in Dublin – more big events organised by the IABA Executive ,including some internationals need to be shared round the country.
IABA Women’s Elite Finals – March 8th
48KG Lynn Harvey (Crumlin) v Lynne McEnery-O’Shea (Waterford St Pauls)
51KG Ceire Smith (Cavan BC) W/O
54KG Dervla Duffy (Ryston) v Michaela Walsh (Holy Family GG)
57KG Joanna Lambe (Carrickmacross) v Lyndsey Doyle (Gorey)
60kg Katie Taylor (Bray BC ) W/O
64kg Kelly Harrington (Corinthians) v Moira McElligott (Rathkeale)
69kg Clare Grace (Callan) v Laoise Traynor (Bray)
75kg Claire Sweetman (Palmerstown) v Sinead Kavanagh (Drimnagh)
81kg Aisling Byrne (Paulstown) W/O
81+kg Diana Campbell (Garda) v Fiona Nelson (City of Belfast)