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19th Feb 2019

White collar to the pros – Siobhan O’Leary’s late rise through boxing

Jack O'Toole

Last week’s ‘Clash of the Titans’ press conference in the National Stadium was a great opportunity for Irish boxing to get back out into the public sphere amidst a few difficult years for the sport in this country.

Eric ‘Lilywhite’ Donovan headlined the bill, rising star Victor Rabei sat there right beside him at the top table and among a sea of aspiring faces on show, it was hard not to take notice of Siobhan O’Leary.

Firstly, she was the only female fighter on the top table, and secondly, she was remarkably quick at cutting off Martin Quinn when he playfully tried to chime in on one of her responses.

O’Leary is a character, her outgoing personality clear for all to see and her wit as sharp as her hands, but she’s also a realist and at 36 she knows that her time in professional boxing will inevitably be shortlived.

“I’m still learning, I know I am, but I’m enjoying it,” said O’Leary.

“I’m invested. I’m under no illusions that my time in professional boxing will be short because of my age so for the next two or three years I’m in it.

“I also work in social care, in homeless services in Limerick, and I love my job. It’s good to be able to have that as part of your life, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really tough. It can get very tough. I train twice a day, six days a week, I travel to Dublin twice a week to train with Eddie Hyland.

“There’s a lot of sacrifice involved. There’s a lot of things I don’t do. There’s a lot of things I miss.”

There’s a lot of things she enjoys about the sport as well, namely, bending people to her will. Testing herself. Learning about her strengths and confronting her weaknesses.

It’s a remarkable journey for O’Leary and a road she never really envisaged when she was first roped into a white collar boxing event in 2012.

“I was on work placement and one of the guys there was a coach at my amateur club in Corpus Christie in Limerick. He said to me he was running a white-collar event and he asked me did I want to do it and I said ‘go away will ya! I’m not able for that shite!’

“Here we are over six years later. What are you doing to yourself Siobhan? It was the best thing I ever did. It really was. Boxing has honest to god, and I don’t mean to be cheesy or cliche, but it’s absolutely changed my outlook on certain things and it really has developed me mentally.

“It is physical but you know there’s going to be physical tests but mentally I’ve got the most positive effects from boxing.

“I ran a bit before, I played a bit of Gaelic Football, I’m from Kerry so it’s a bit of a rite of passage, I was in the gym and I was a fit person but I was a big girl at the same time and this was completely out of left field.

“But when I started it it caught hold of me and it still hasn’t let go. I love it. It’s a huge part of my life, it really is.”

O’Leary will fight at the Clash of the Titans card on March 30th at the National Stadium.

Her opponent has yet to be named and with a white-collar boxing background she has a typically humble approach to the task in front of her, both next month, and beyond.

“Look I’m not a person for a soundbite or to start calling people out or any shite like that. I’m a person to fight. Whatever my trajectory is… I’ll let my team determine that… my job is to get in there and box and fight and win.

“That’s what I do. It’s fight by fight. It’s opponent by opponent. Obviously titles are there for me and those are my aims but right now I’m 2-0. I live in the moment but this is fight is the goal right now and we’ll achieve that.”

In many ways O’Leary is treating the pro’s like white collar boxing but she knows that the level is tougher, the training is harder and the lights will be brighter at the national stadium. But in essence, it’s still just a fight.

Two women. One winner.

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