Tuesday, November 13, 2012

World Champion boxer Deirdre Gogarty visits Ireland

The walls of St Saviour’s Boxing Gym in Dublin are covered with photos of tough-looking men, gloved-up and ready to fight. But next to Muhammed Ali, there’s a photo of Deirdre Gogarty with a World Title belt around her waist. 

World Champion 1997 Irish Boxer Deirdre Gogarty (this pic from 1994)

Deirdre Gogarty won that belt in 1997 after ten years of training in Ireland and America. Women’s boxing was illegal in Ireland then so she’d moved to Louisiana

“I started in Saviour’s really, I was young then and thought no-one in the world could beat me. It was an instinct in me to fight, it was just something I had to do,” she says, standing next to the ring.

Now a boxing coach and graphic artist in Louisiana, I met her in October when she came to Ireland to launch her autobiography. She also made time for a training session with Olympic champion Katie Taylor. 

Gogarty and Taylor go back a long way. When Gogarty won her Women’s International Federation of Boxing title in New Orleans, 11-year-old Taylor wrote to her.

“I kept a letter she sent congratulating me on wining the world title. And at the bottom she said maybe one they will let us box at the Olympics,” Gogarty says.

“It is brilliant to see her now. I’m living a little bit through her, I would have wanted everything she did and it’s just great she has the chance now.”

But she says thinking any amateur boxer can make an easy transition to professional fighting is a mistake. Gogarty herself went straight into the pro game but she says for anyone with a choice that would be “madness”.

Aside from the obvious differences of no head-gear and smaller gloves, the Drogheda woman says the fights are tougher.

“You are paid so you are expected to handle a lot more punishment and fouls. You get fouled more – head-butts, low blows and kidney punches. You are more prone to getting cut too. But in amateur the emphasis is on safety,” she says.

And you’re alone, she says, there is no support like the High Performance Team gives to amateur boxers in Ireland. She refers to professional boxing promoters as “sharks”. In contrast amateur boxers compete in highly-regulated tournaments. 

One of Gogarty’s most famous fights was on the undercard for Mike Tyson Vs Frank Bruno in 1996. Her opponent’s battered face put women’s boxing on the map for millions of viewers. 

But she hopes people will realise the huge differences between professional and amateur scenes.
She says: “Boxing is tough at any level. But everyone should absolutely try amateur boxing. Knowing you are fighting and being able to prepare for that is a life experience that will stand to you.”

Gogarty hopes the so-called ‘Katie Taylor” effect will bring girls into boxing gyms. But she’s unsure how many could ever compete at Olympic level.

“There are not very many people, boys or girls, who go into competition. It takes a special person to climb into that ring. It takes a lot of courage. This is not a sport for everybody,” she says.

(and in Easons if you're in Ireland!) 

A version of this story first appeared in the Irish Independent's FIT magazine. 


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