Monday, September 10, 2018

Siobhan O' Leary turns pro boxer and finds it's a different game to amateur boxing

Ireland’s pro boxing scene gained a new face when Siobhan O’ Leary announced the end of her amateur career a few days ago. This makes six pro female boxers over the last two decades. I caught up with Siobhan to find out how she’s making the tough transition from amateur.

And it will be tough, inside the ring for sure but outside too. Don’t be deceived by how often Katie Taylor fights, very few women have the star-power to pull in bouts on those big shows.  That said, Siobhan is already signed for her first bout this year.

It definitely helps she has a great reputation already. At her last Nationals she won the 60kg title, defeating Aisling Murray, and won at the international Celtic Box Cup against Mirjam Jurisic (Basel).

In a sign of how intense this new life is; we spoke on the phone as she travelled back to her base in Limerick from a Dublin training session. That’s roughly a two-hour drive each way.

She says: “I’m still overwhelmed, people have been so positive. I wasn’t expecting this. Everyone’s been so encouraging. I’m an older athlete, I’m 35 but if there is negativity out there I’ve not heard it. I could have gone on with the amateur boxing but professional fits more with my style.”

She returns to that word “style” again and again as we talk. The hard power of professional boxing is something that appeals to her, but making the move is not easy.

“It’s not just slower exactly but you are more set down, there is more force and power involved. With amateur it is more get in and get out; it’s like a quick tap-tap-tap whereas in pro boxing it’s about putting somebody down. It’s about breaking somebody down, stalking them - tempo shots and these power shots.

“That’s been the biggest difference I’ve seen so far. It’s about settling down on my feet, slowing things down for now until I get used to that style and get used to my trainer. I’m used to training and I train very hard, but it’s just the actual style of pro-boxer that is a big change for me.”

Siobhan points out the basic training  - roadwork, bagwork, strength and conditioning -  is the same so there are advantages. But you have to think differently, to get your head in the game.

And to stretch the boxing metaphor even further, she’s in good hands. In the car with her is fellow Limerick boxer Graham McCormack who also trains with Team TNT in Tallaght. She’ll be trained by Eddie Hyland and Tommy McCormack.

The Kerrywoman will continue strength training at Functional Fitness in Limerick. Plus a few sessions at SBG in Tallaght, an off-shoot of John Kavanagh’s SBG so no easy sessions there either.

Siobhan with fellow boxer Graham McCormack for video by Stephan Sharpe, see link below

She says: “I’m working with Eddie, the training is different to what we did before. The padwork is different, he has me moving with my hips a lot more and turning with my hips and turning into my shots. I’m using my momentum more to bring the shots together. He’s trying to get me not to focus on power for now – I’ve been told I hit very hard, I never hit myself, so I don’t know – so he has me slowing down and focusing on movement.”

She jokes the catchphrase at the gym is she hits very hard for a girl, and we both wonder when that phrase will die out.

This all makes for a very different feel to her six years as an amateur. But mentally Siobhan is more than ready.

She says: “I’m training a lot, but I’m working full-time so you have perspective. I’m working with homeless people in Limerick City, it’s a typical 40-hours a week job. I love my job, I just love it. I’ve been there three years and they’re very supportive.”

Now getting to know her new team, she’s working towards a November bout on the Celtic Clash 7 show. With all the excitement on social media about her announcement, she says you have to remember there will be a fight at the end.

She says: “I can’t wait to get in there, experience a proper pro fight for the first time. I’ve no worries whatsoever about getting in there without a helmet. I’ve a strong belief in myself. You can’t have any sort of fear getting in there, you have to delete fear.”

Follow Siobhan O' Leary on her boxing journey on Twitter @Siobhan_OL

Read interviews on this blog with other Irish women boxers: 

Deirdre Gogarty 

Christina McMahon 

Lynn Harvey 

Watch a Youtube interview with Siobhan O' Leary   (by Stephan Sharpe)

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