Tokyo no-go a blow for potential pro Kristina McCafferty

Just when Kristina McCafferty could see the light at the end of a long dark tunnel, circumstances have transpired to block out the sun again.

The Commonwealth Games silver medalist entered 2021 on an Olympic mission.

The 24-year-old seemed to have been handed a lifeline with Toyko 2020 pushed back a year. McCafferty had been under suspension from boxing but this has since been lifted and she had set about returning to the ring.

The Belfast flyweight instantly set her sights on Olympic qualification, planned to win the National Elite Championships, tournaments her suspension prevented her from entering in 2019, to secure the 51kg spot on the Irish team for the World Olympic qualifiers.

However, the World route to Tokyo no longer exists.

The Boxing Task Force (BTF) have cancelled that qualifier and the Tokyo slots from this will be allocated according to world ranking – and as the Belfast fighter had never competed in a ranked competition, she doesn’t have one.

Speaking to Irish-boxing.com she admits the development has proved a massive blow.

“I was disappointed, I was in full-time training. I thought finally, something good could come out of COVID and I might have a shot,” she said before revealing the plan.

“My goal was to win the seniors at 51kg with the hope that it would get me back on the Irish team for the next qualifying tournament. I was hoping it could have been possible.

“With my great support system, from my parents, siblings, my aunt and friends to my parents in law. Everyone was doing what it took for me to get to the gym and make it happen,” the young mother added.

“I had to be pushed every day, [coach and husband] Gerard made sure I was completely focused and always went the extra mile to make sure I was getting my rest in between even though it was what I wanted It was still hard to leave my son.”

It’s just another blow for a fighter who has taken her fair share of knocks out of the ring.

“These few years have been the hardest years of my life. I’m only 24. I’ve dedicated my life to boxing from when I was 11 years old. Sacrificed everything to be number one. I was suspended for the guts of a year. Over false accusations. Which was all cleared in the end. But what was not explained was how the Ulster Council thought this was acceptable do this.”

“It was another huge blow after being back in the gym twice a day, taking time away from my son and from my family,” she adds with reference to the Olympic development.

The Irish female flyweight division is one which is in limbo. #1 Ceire Smith was forced out of the European qualifier last year with a thumb injury and late replacement Carly McNaul was beaten in her opening bout.

More recently, Kildare’s Niamh Early was given the call for the Strandja Memorial last month and appears to be the boxer whom Bernard Dunne and the High Performance Unit are focusing on.

There are host of amateurs in a similar position to McCafferty terms of Tokyo. Those not selected for the European Qualifier, which resumes in Paris in June, would have an eye on forcing themselves onto the Irish team for the Worlds.

With that route now gone rumour has a lot of promising talents exploring pro options. Indeed Dublin heavyweight Thomas Carty has revealed he won’t be hanging around for Paris 2024 and will be turning over.

McCafferty admits turning over is something she has discussed, although she hasn’t decided to bin the vest just yet.

“Turning pro is something we have spoken about. But I’m not rushing to turn over just yet,” she adds before confirming there has been interest.

“We have had some great promoters reach out. We will see what happens in the near future. Myself and Gerard will take the best route possible. He will help me become a world champion and our son will watch his mum and dad tackle whatever is thrown at us.”

When she does turn over, be it sooner or further down the line, McCafferty is confident she will make an impact.

“I don’t fit in anywhere, I stand out,” she responds emphatically when asked where she believes she would fit in in the current pro scene.

“I think I would make some serious noise as a professional boxer. I have a good strong amateur background and plenty of international experience. I would be a world champion without a doubt.”

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 sport for a living for 19 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