Boxing

Broadhurst hoping world class Katie Taylor can rub off in quest for gold

Amy Broadhurst spent a week sparring with Katie Taylor as the Bray woman gears up for this weekend's world title showdown with Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden
Neil Loughran

SHE may be preparing for her own crack at world glory, but Amy Broadhurst will set the alarm for the early hours of Sunday morning when Katie Taylor takes on Amanda Serrano in a historic showdown at Madison Square Garden.

The Dundalk woman is currently at a training camp in Italy ahead of the World Championships, which get under way in Istanbul on May 6.

But Broadhurst received an unexpected boost when she was asked to help childhood idol Taylor get ready for her big night in the Big Apple.

“I woke up one morning and there was an email from her management, looking for my number to have a chat about Katie’s upcoming fight. Her manager asked would I go over and be a sparring partner for her – of course I was like ‘yeah, no problem’,” said the 25-year-old, who travelled out to Connecticut last month.

“I was absolutely over the moon when I got the email. I mean, what an opportunity, and what a compliment as well to be asked by, in my opinion, the best female boxer that’s ever lived. For her to ask for my help, it was just class.”

It was the first time the pair had shared a ring, though not the first time they had met.

When Broadhurst – now boxing out of the St Bronagh’s club in Rostrevor - landed gold at the European schoolgirl championships in 2012, staff at Colaiste Ris arranged for Taylor to make a surprise visit. Having watched Taylor top the podium at the London Olympics months earlier, Broadhurst was awestruck.

Yet here she is, 10 years later, helping the Bray woman prepare for the biggest night of her professional career.

“That was unbelievable. Then in 2013 we were actually on the same team because the juniors, youths and elites all went to Hungary for the European Unions, and the two of us got gold out there.

“I’ve bumped into her a few times through the years, so it wasn’t like I was a stranger coming over. When I got over there, she was nothing but nice to me. They were so good to me, and I actually learned a lot, in and out of the ring.”

Such as?

“Things like, when she was in competition as an amateur, she would only look at the fight she had next. She never looked near the rest of the draw. That’s something I would probably have been guilty of, and it’s something I’m going to stop doing because I have a tendency to look 10 months ahead.

“In the ring, I’ve never been in with speed like it. Physically I was bigger than her, but it was class sparring - you couldn’t ask for anything better.

“Then there’s her mentality… she’s just different than anybody I’ve seen. You can throw 10 kitchen sinks at her and she’ll not give up.

“To be around somebody with the attitude she has towards everything was amazing. Honestly, being there actually gave me a lot of confidence as well.

“Obviously I spar Kellie all the time and she’s Olympic champion, but I was asking myself am I actually good enough to set foot in the ring with Katie Taylor? That was lingering in the back of my mind but when I was over I really surprised myself. Even my fitness, that I was able to do 10 two minute rounds or eight three minute rounds.

“The feedback I got from her was amazing, because she said she wouldn’t have got the work anywhere else. To hear that, I knew I’d done my job right going over there.”

And while she expects Taylor to get the win this weekend, Broadhurst hopes to use that training camp experience to her benefit in the coming weeks.

The Covid pandemic has left Broadhurst with little competitive action in recent years, and she forced an early stoppage of her sole opponent at the Golden Belt-Nicolae Linca tournament in Romania earlier this month.

Being around Taylor might have whetted her appetite for a future move into the paid ranks but, for now, her sole focus is on making an impression at the Worlds.

“Part of you would love to go pro now, but there’s things I want to achieve as an amateur,” said Broadhurst, who is also expected to represent Team NI at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“I’m 25, Katie’s 35, Kellie’s 33, I’m well behind them in terms of where they are in their lives – I wouldn’t say I’m a baby any more but I’m still young enough in the sport really.

“That’s what excites me. I know I’m improving, I’m not just in the one spot, so it makes me really look forward to the next year, and I’m looking forward to seeing where I am at the Worlds.”

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The Irish team find their voice during the recent European Youth Championships in Bulgaria

EURO STARS HAVE BIG FUTURE SAYS IRISH COACH CUNNINGHAM

COACH Liam Cunningham is predicting a big future for the record-breaking Irish team who brought home eight medals from the European Youth Championships in Bulgaria.

Team captain Bobby Flood, Dearbhla Tinnelly and Cliona Darcy all won gold in Sofia, with Laura Moran claiming silver and Patsy Joyce, Georgia Dunn-McGovern, Katie O’Keeffe and Winnie McDonagh all landing bronze.

It is the largest number of medals ever won at a single tournament by an Irish underage team, and Saints stalwart Cunningham - part of the coaching team alongside Jim O’Neill, James Doyle, Aoife Hennigan and Gerard McDaid – admits he was “pleasantly surprised” by the medal haul.

“A lot of these guys either hadn’t boxed internationally before, or hadn’t done so in a while, so you were sort of going into the unknown,” says Cunningham, a silver medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

“We had a great camp down in Clann Naofa before we left, loads of sparring, loads of pad-work, and we really saw a big difference after those five days.

“I was pretty optimistic heading out, we were handed some very tough draws, but to come back with eight medals is probably more than anybody would have expected before so we’re delighted.

“A lot of them will still be eligible next year - that extra physical maturity makes such a difference at this level. But this experience will really stand to them, being away in that environment, so there’s plenty of reasons to be positive with this group.

“There definitely are a few future Olympians on that team.”

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It was a good weekend for Immaculata at the National Stadium, as they had four champions at the Boy/Girl 2 Irish Championships. Pictured with coaches Frankie Slane, Jimmy McVeigh and Martin Lindsay are Carly Voyle (finalist), Francis Regan (champion), Lee Largey-Snodden (champion), Jude Reilly (champion), Kai Dynes (champion), Ruairi Fitzsimmons (semi-finalist) and Padraig Walsh (finalist). Among the other Ulster winners were Cara Weatherall (pictured below, St Paul’s), Daire McGuinness (St Monica’s), Callum McAlinden (Banbridge), Gleann’s James Rooney (Gleann) and Erne’s Katie Rasdale. “We’re on a wee crest of a wave at the minute,” said Immaculata coach Lindsay, “it’s just about keeping that momentum going now. But we couldn’t have asked any more of them, they were brilliant”. And while there was plenty to celebrate for the Mac, coach Lindsay was keen to pay tribute to club stalwart Michael McCann, who passed away last Friday. “Shaky was a member of our club in my whole time through boxing, he was the guy who came round every day, opened it up, put the heating on, cleaned the club, locked up, took the subs… did all that unseen work to keep things going. He would always have been down watching and supporting too, he did so much for the club and he’ll be sadly missed by all”. In the Boy/Girl 1 finals on Saturday, there were wins for Joseph McParland and Katie Lee O’Hare (St Monica’s), Antrim BC pair Callum McMillan and Jude McLaughlin, Ross Niblock and Cole Rooney (Banbridge), and Holy Family’s Michael Cruz Maguire 

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Boxing