Katie Taylor fans have two opportunities of seeing the world champion in action in Ireland this week ,firstly against USA star Liz Leddy from Portland Maine in Cork City’s Silver Springs Moran Hotel on March 30th.
Following that March 30th encounter in Cork, Katie meets another highly rated USA boxing star , N’yteeyah Sherman, the promising, 6ft tall, 19yrs old from Barberton, Ohio on March 31st , the main bout on the annual Peter Crotty Memorial tournament, promoted by the local Iron Gym Dungarvan club, so it is truly a busy time ahead for Miss Taylor.
Two hectic weeks then for the three times World Champion in her preparation for the 2012 World Championships – and only female Olympic Qualifier – in Qinhuangdao, China ( May 9-20) as she has had two wins last weekend over Holland’s Jessica Belder, at the National Stadium (25-5) and in Cavan (27-4 )
Today , we meet Elizabeth “Liz” Leddy, the 30 years old from Portland, Maine , who faces Taylor in Cork City. As in the case of Queen Underwood, whose moving story we brought you recently, Liz Leddy too faced considerable personal problems, albeit very different ones , in her teenage years .
She has fought successfully to overcome them and follow her dreams. She is, quite rightly , very proud of what she has achieved since those dark days. She told U.S website KeepMeCurrent.com in their “Maine Women” feature:
“I have been involved with boxing since 1999, with my first bout in 2000. Prior to that, I had lost my direction in life as my family separated, and my life choices became more and more chaotic.
I had been an equestrian, and I was a natural, consistent athlete. (I got my GED) at 16 and got a job at a horse stable in Massachusetts. I had been heavily drinking for three or four years, and it was starting to become an obvious problem.
On my return to Maine, I was working in construction and drinking, moving further and further away from any life I may have had before. The older, wilder crowd I was hanging out with was noticing.
They suggested that I look into boxing or kickboxing. (Now) I am finding that boxing is more and more a career of present and future for me”.
In an exclusive interview with SportsNewsIreland, Liz tells of her initial despair and depression but more importantly about how she set about changing her life, with God’s help.
“I thought that if there was a God, surely he would not want anything to do with a wretch like me, with a life as despicable as mine. I knew inside that I had turned my back on everything I was so graciously gifted with in life.
I was introduced to the side of me that I had all but cast aside- the side of me that had the best Irish and Spanish genes, was gifted artistically, athletically, spiritually, intellectually – through my introduction to the Portland Boxing Club. I had respect for the head coach, Bobby Russo, and head trainer Skip Neales.
I wanted to earn their respect, too. So, I decided to put down the alcohol and drugs, and cigarettes and chaotic living. I found that the depression was overwhelming- I picked them up again, without my own permission. I felt desolate and hopeless for failing to live in a way that this new group of athlete friends deserved to be associated with”.
So how did she set about getting back on the road to recovering from her deep depression?
“A talented heavyweight boxer at the club suggested to me that maybe I was not a hopeless problem of a party girl – maybe I was sick, like him. He said he was going to a meeting that night after practice, and I could go there and meet some girls who knew how it felt to try to live with this sickness.
I didn’t believe that I had a disease- I was convinced that I was just born a bad one. I had accepted my destiny as a failure, until after this first meeting of speakers and prayer. I was overcome by a sense of awe, of belonging, of humility- and a white hazy glow surrounded my vision.
I knew I needed to continue to come to these groups where there was hope, help and support. The police were immediately aware that something had changed in my life! It took me many years to fully live this new life, many wins and many losses.
I have kept going back, and as with in the gym and my boxing, have continued to improve on the ME that I show up with- in life, in the ring, in my Creator’s eyes.
My boxing family, my community family, my sober family, my Irish family, my Spanish family- my spiritual family- are all so happy with who I now am, in and out of the ring. I love to show them my respect – to get in the ring and display the result of day to day living that has gotten me this progress!”
And of the immediate future?
“It is an honour to have my lessons of life potentially help other young women. My accomplishments in life and in the ring pale in comparison to the gifts of freedom, growth, love, and spirituality I have found through the lessons I learned from my head coach, Bob Russo.
These lessons of moral strength, honour, fellowship, self and mutual respect- these are the medals I am most proud of, and most honoured to wear day to day through my every decision, my every action, reaction- my next right choice”.
“I have known many friends, teammates, family, to fall to the disease of addiction, whether it is from the symptom (the drug or drink itself) or the honest problem (a sense of spiritual disconnect/ distress). The latter, with the removal of substance and without a spiritual solution, leads to the same dark depots as the train of addiction.
The solution, which I found through amateur boxing, was to find a group of positively influential people and a program of support and recovery. We are not bad people trying to get good, though we have done bad things.
We are sick people trying to get well- and change our harmful habits and more importantly, the hurt we have caused countless others, as well as ourselves through the baffling powerful grips of addiction”.
“We must change everything, and this is the greatest journey ever to set upon. Our new lives become beacons of hope to many- we have essentially given up the FIGHT against substance abuse, and SURRENDERED our will to God’s will.
I always say, this was the greatest fight I ever lost. I am able to have loving relationships with my family, my coaches, my teammates, and many others. I am able to live in a NEW way- a way that heals, inspires, and grows the positive in the world.
I can do this because I go to God to ask to help me stay away from a drink, a drug, and harm to another. I ask that I do his will and not mine, and for the courage and strength to be the person he would have me be. It is said that boxing is life boiled down… I truly believe this, as once we are in that ring we are exposed to the very fibre of our beings.
In this way, with boxing echoing life and life echoing boxing, and by following God’s plan and accepting the outcome, I have learned to walk, learn strive, win, lose, struggle, climb, live with grace. Thank you to all the people on my path with me, and to the Creator whose grand design we trace with our lives.”
The U.S star has also been subject of a 2010 Documentary Film : “Liz – Her Fight “ ,directed by Sharyn Paul Brusie, which ‘documents Liz Leddy’s journey from homelessness, despair and a brutal fight with life to ultimately finding peace within herself through taking her “fight” into the boxing ring and becoming a champion’.
Like Queen Underwood, Leddy is an inspiration to young women who have had to face hardship and/or abuse in their formative years. She offers this advice to those women interested in taking up the boxing:
“Set up goals based on your athletic aspirations – such as running three miles four times a week, and training boxing skills three or four times a week – and then add to that long-term competition goals. This type of structure will teach you so much about yourself and your character. It is also important to pay close attention to the gym you choose – don’t be afraid to try a few before you decide to commit to one. It is important to commit to a club and develop trust with your coaches. This will teach you loyalty and good character.
Become a helpful team player and take it upon yourself to work hard reading, studying, and becoming fit outside the gym. This will help you out in the ring, but will also show honour and respect to those who take the time to bring you along in the sport. Many young boxers get burned out from the intensity of the sport; rest is also very important. Mostly, have fun. It is impossible to be successful at something you don’t enjoy doing. “
At 30, Liz Leddy is at the peak of her career – a career which saw her represent the United States at the 2009 Women’s InterContinental Championships in Ecuador, winning (11-5) on her international debut against Colombia’s Vivianne Londono at the Abel Jimenez Parra Coliseum in Guayaquil.
Speaking exclusively to SportsNewsIreland about her visit to Cork, her respect for Katie Taylor and on her Irish ancestry she said:
“I am indeed excited to face the talented Katie Taylor in the squared circle. What a stunning opportunity for me? I remember, in 2009, it being suggested by the (USA) Women’s Intercontinental Championship’s head coach, Christy Halbert, that I study Miss Taylor to improve my point scoring ability. She is really quite respected, for good reason – and I am excited to compete with her!
I certainly have kept up with Katie Taylor’s boxing career, as I have all of the amateur boxing talent. I enjoyed watching and participating in every history making, ground breaking tournament these past three years since the 2012 games participation was declared. We will make our countries, our families, ourselves and the world very proud and happy to witness our skill, dedication, and passion.
I am and have always been very proud of my family’s Irish heritage! We were always raised to be appreciative of our blood and history. I may have been a bit obsessed in my teenage years! I do have the Guinness Harp, or, the Harp of Ulster, tattooed on my shoulder! I was told our roots are from the Co. Clare area and also from Co. Cavan … I am too excited to put in words over this.”
And finally, a clip of Leddy in action in the 2011 Regionals final.
Liz is sure to receive a warm welcome from the very knowledgeable Cork boxing fans … and from Katie Taylor ….. on March 30th.
Their strong Christian beliefs suggest they have a lot in common and much to discuss – once the final bell tolls.
Tickets at 50 euros Ringside and 15 euros are available from St John’s BC ‘s , Patrick Flynn Tel: (087)1675884 or directly from the Silver Springs Hotel. Tel: 021 4507533.