Boxing

'I'm getting itchy knuckles sitting here': Amy Broadhurst ready and waiting for ring return

Amy Broadhurst has had to play the waiting game for a while now but, as she tells Neil Loughran, her time is coming and when it does, she is determined to grab any opportunities with both hands...

Dundalk lightweight Amy Broadhurst, pictured with IABA national secretary Paddy Gallagher, has her sights set on the Paris Olympic Games in 2024 as she recovers from a wrist operation last year. Picture by Mark Marlow

AS of last Friday, it has been a full year since Amy Broadhurst last threw a punch in anger – and the waiting game, she knows, is far from over yet.

On Monday an Irish elite team will head off to Germany for a two week training camp before most travel on to Bulgaria for the Strandja international tournament in the final week of February.

It was there, at the prestigious Sofia competition, that the Dundalk lightweight last stepped between the ropes, bowing out to experienced Finn and one-time Katie Taylor conqueror Mira Potkonen in the last 16 on January 22, 2020.

This time around, though, circumstances dictate that Broadhurst remains at home.

“I only started coming back to Dublin two weeks before Christmas because I had surgery on my wrist at the end of September - I was at home rebuilding it,” said the 23-year-old.

“It had been an issue for a good few years but now was a good time to get it sorted with everything that’s going on – or not going on. I’m able to do pads now so I’m slowly but surely getting there, and by mid-February I’ll be allowed to start sparring again.

“But with the rest of the team going off to Germany and then the Olympic qualifiers, there’s not actually anything in place for us. I was sort of happy the elites didn’t go ahead because I wouldn’t have been able to compete in them anyway, but I just want to get back in there.

“It’s been a year now… that’s mental. I’m getting itchy knuckles sitting here.”

When Covid-19 restrictions were lifted on elite athletes returning to training last July, Broadhurst found herself taking the M1 north instead of south as she was included in Ulster squad based in Jordanstown.

Although she was training alongside the likes of Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker and Michaela Walsh, there was no sparring as boxers worked away in pods.

Now though, with Strandja marking a first return to competitive action for Irish boxers in 11 months, and the postponed European Olympic qualifier resuming in April, it is beginning to feel something like business at usual down at the Institute of Sport in Abbotstown.

“In Jordanstown we were all in our little pods and it was a bit strange, especially when there was nothing coming up at all. But now it seems back to normal because we’re able to train the way we did before.

“The team have something to motivate themselves, they’re raring to go now for Germany. That’s good because it’s going to fly in for them.”

Yet while there is obvious frustration at the ongoing lack of activity, Broadhurst admits that - apart from offering the opportunity to resolve that issue with her wrist - it has also been a welcome break from the “treadmill” of the domestic and international calendar.

“The break, mentally, was a good thing.

“It’s different for everybody but you were able to recharge a little bit, and I was able to come back and feel happier with what I was doing. It definitely freshened the head a little bit.

“I’ve been boxing internationally for eight years nearly. In 2019 I went from the Europeans to the Worlds, then I came back for the elites and then off to Strandja, so the whole six months was go, go, go.

“When Covid came it was nice to have a break, but this is the longest I’ve been out of the ring my whole life. Even when I moved to England for a while I was still always training and sparring, doing competitions, but this has just been a complete standstill.”

Part of the reason for that headspace has been the acceptance that her time, in terms of Olympic ambition, will be at Paris 2024 rather than this summer – should the Tokyo Games go ahead.

A rivalry with 2018 World champion Kellie Harrington sparked shots across the bows from both camps a few years back as Broadhurst eyed a crack at the qualifiers for Tokyo.

Now, though, any past animosity has been put aside as she turns her focus to the next Olympic cycle. Before the pandemic Broadhurst would regularly spar Harrington, and the Dealgan BC fighter will be cheering on her team-mate when the bell goes at London’s Copper Box Arena in April.

“To me now, my focus is 2024 at 60. I wish Kellie the best of luck, I hope she qualifies and does well. I can be a team-mate to Kellie now rather than an opponent – I’ll be cheering her on from back here when she’s over at the qualifiers, because I’ve no doubt she’s going to qualify. I’d put money on it that she will.

“I’ll be 27 by the next Olympics, which is peak really, and I’m still young. It took a while to get my head around that but I’m happier now focusing on myself and 2024 rather than focusing on the constant situation at 60. I’m more at ease now.”

One of Harrington’s potential opponents when the qualifier action does resume is Potkonen – Broadhurst’s last foe 12 months ago.

Both are well acquainted with the 40-year-old, who brought home bronze from Rio five years ago after ousting Taylor at the quarter-final stage.

And the experience of sharing the ring with someone of the Finn’s status – as Broadhurst did three times in the space of six months between 2019 and 2020 – can only help her along as she dreams of competing on the biggest stage of all.

“The first time I boxed her, the name was in your head when you were about to fight her – ‘jeez I’m boxing Mira Potkonen’. But the more you go along with her, she’s just another person. That’s what I learned over the three fights. If you do the right things against her you’re going to beat here. She’s not superhuman.

“In the Worlds she beat me fair and square but the one in Madrid and even Bulgaria was very close. Hopefully I’ll share the ring with her again some time down the line, but for now I’m just waiting on anything coming up because there’s nothing set in stone due to what’s going on… it’s a pain in the ass.

“I’ve been told to be prepared just in case something happens to one of the girls [ahead of the European qualifier], but I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. I’m not even thinking about that, I’m just training away at the moment hoping that we’ll soon find out there’s a competition.

“I’m not the only one in this situation, so we just have to sit tight.”

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Boxing