However, 2018 was a real test of her ambitions and the Crumlin BC puncher has passed with flying colours and is now on the verge of a second senior title.
Having won the 2017 title, a series of serious injuries prevented Houlihan from defending her light heavyweight crown but the towering Tipperary boxer is back looking to reclaim a title which was not contested at all in 2018.
“Last year was a write-off with injuries,” she explained to Irish-Boxing.com ahead of her decider versus Mayo’s Lisa Browne.
“First day back training in January I wrecked my knee and I had to have surgery on that. Then I broke my hand. Then I broke my finger. It was just a write-off.”
Quitting, though, was never an option for Houlihan who simply notes how “even at my age, no.”
“I love it, it’s good craic. The club is amazing, it’s a great place to train, so inclusive, I love it.”
In Aglish’s Browne, the 39-year-old faces last year’s heavyweight runner-up.
Considering the small pool of fighters at 80kg and +80kg, one might assume the pair are familiar with each other.
However, Houlihan has difficult getting female fighters to share the ring with her.
She explained how “I’ve seen a couple of videos but I wouldn’t be overly familiar. It’s just sparring with the boys in the club, really, that’s it.”
“I’ve had a couple of fights before but they tend to come once and never come back again – for whatever reason! I don’t know whether it’s because I’m, so shite or…” jokes the power puncher.
Barring a rule change, Saturday will be Houlihan’s last fight in the Senior Championships as she will be ineligible next year due to age.
It is our understanding that she would become the oldest Irish Elite Senior champion ever should she win, and Houlihan is committed to enjoying the night having been blown away by the experience back in 2018.
“I’m going in knowing what to expect. It was very daunting for a relative newcomer,” she admits.
“I’m only boxing about four or five years. I started because, at trials for a rugby team, I wrecked my cruciate, it was pretty much for fitness. Phil asked me to do this white collar thing a couple of weeks after I started and I said ‘yeah, no bother’, thinking I had no hope.”
“I remember the first shot I hit your one with I actually apologised. It was just such a buzz though.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)