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Not quite female sporting paradise-O’Leary claims boxing still has more to do

‘It’s staring her in the face and the pathway is mapped out with roses.’

That’s been boxing’s response to the 20×20 campaign and their ‘If she can’t see it she can’t be it’ slogan.

Not that the boxing world is being disparaging to a welcome campaign ‘aimed at creating a measurable cultural shift in the presentation and perception of Women’s sport in Ireland.’

Rather the sport felt it was a trend setter in terms of all things female and equality in a sporting sense.

Sure can’t boxing and Irish boxing lay claim to Katie Taylor the poster girl of inspiring young kids and females in particular. She has been seen and been emulated across the country.

Gyms across Ireland now have as many young females and males populating them on a weekly basis. We already have a new amateur #1 in world champion Kelly Harrington, Amy Broadhurst has just won gold in the European Under 22 championships and, going into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the country’s best medal hopes for any sport are arguably female boxers.

Indeed, within the underage set up females are now bringing more honour to Ireland on the International stage than the men.

Then in terms of the pro ranks Irish boxing can lay claim to one of the biggest names in the sport. A boxer who has changed the landscape, the pay scale and a host of formerly held draconian opinions, as Katie Taylor breaks down walls like she breaks down opponents.

katie Taylor

The most respected sports star in Ireland isn’t short of media coverage either and the likes Harrington, Broadhurst and pro Lynn Harvey have secured their fair share of mainstream media coverage of late too.

It all brings a big smile to the boxing collective’s somewhat smug face and there is genuine pride in the fact female of the species is deemed just as relevant as the male once they step through the ropes.

However, to rob another campaign slogan it’s a case of ‘a lot done a lot more to do’ points out Siobhan O’Leary.

In a bid to massage the ego of sport in terms of equality Irish-Boxing.com naively asked a somewhat leading question to a relatively new to game pro with regard to females within the sport.

A simple look made it clear the answer we were expecting wasn’t coming and dead air during a pause from the well spoken Kerry native was broken only by the males in the gym who were so surprised an answer that doesn’t fit the current narrative wasn’t forthcoming.

However, O’Leary, who fights for a second time as a pro on March 30th, is honest and open and wasn’t going to recite any sporting politically correct line – and whilst she didn’t dump on the notion that boxing has progressed she wasn’t going to hide from the fact there are still things to be done.

The Limerick-based prospect who trains under Eddie Hyland in Dublin is delighted to be a member of the pro family, admits she feels at home, welcomed and respected among her peers and suggests there are certain gender levelers within boxing.

However, the Killarney fighter who registered an impressive first round knockout when she debuted late last year, claims there are still areas in which the sport can improve.

With what looks more than fitting in a gym with male coaches, male managers and a press pack made up solely of men she points out there is room for improvement outside of the ring.

“There is definitely an equality there in terms of when you go in the ring it’s person v person. Like when I go in the ring I have sparred – even with Eddie – and in that regard it’s boxer v boxer, person v person, but I still think there is aways to go in terms of governing bodies, promoters, managers and things like that. In that regard it is still very male dominated,” O’Leary educated Irish-boxing.com before we plucked Kathy Duval from the Sky as if for some reason to counter argue!

“There isn’t though is there? In terms of women in some parts of the sport. There are is still steps to be taken and aways to go. It has mushroomed since 2012 and like I said I am honoured and privileged to be part of this sport, but seen as you asked me I’ll be honest and say there is things still to be done.” 

O’Leary did claim there were a number of ‘equalizers’ and that within the ring there is a sense of equality.

“For me Katie Taylor is one of the best boxers in the world pound for pound regardless. Katie would make mince meat out of a lot of men out there. That in itself is an equalizer. I know for me I will go in against a male sparring partner and I’ll try take his head off and no doubt he will try do the same to me. There is an equality in that sense,” she continues.


The big puncher with a real pragmatic ‘my job is to fight’ approach to the sport points out she is a member of Team TNT rather than a female participant and again in that there is a sense of equality.

“The second I walked in the gym I was accepted. The guys they opened their arms to me and accepted me into the team. I felt like one of the team straight away. I was treated like one of the team straight away. I got the piss taken out of me and all that stuff and that is exactly what I wanted it. I didn’t want different treatment because I am female.”


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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com