There was a time when Katie Taylor was the lone star in women’s boxing. Then Kellie Harrington emerged to win Olympic and World Championship gold medals. Two talents. An embarrassment of riches.
Now as Harrington continues her career into her 30s and Taylor continues to hit out internationally in the professional arena, Amy Broadhurst’s breakout season has drawn her right into the bosom of elite boxing.
[ Amy Broadhurst named Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year 2022 ]
At 25-years-old Broadhurst, a natural 60kg athlete like Taylor and Harrington, has continued the tradition of Irish boxers ruling the world. A perfect year just passed with all her stars aligning and looking towards the Olympic Games in Paris – her 2023 will begin as Commonwealth, European and World Champion.
Emulating Taylor’s amateur successes, Broadhurst, boxing at light welterweight (63kg), was also crowned boxer of the tournament at this year’s European Championships in Montenegro, a tournament where Ireland won an unprecedented seven medals with golds also coming from Harrington at lightweight and middleweight Aoife O’Rourke.
So fast has been the rise of the woman from Muirhevnamor, those outside the Irish boxing world and county Louth would not have readily known her name prior to six months ago, when she began to win everything put in front of her.
What has been impressive in the execution of the perfect year has been the tenacity and drive of Broadhurst to prepare and peak at the right time for all three competitions.
The World Championships were in May, the Commonwealth Games began at the end of July and the European Championships climaxed in late October. She has felt that challenge.
“My legs gave way after the first round,” she says about her 5-0 win over Ukraine’s Mariia Bova in the European final, which she dominated. “I was really tired. Come the semi-finals I was running on empty.
“The whole year was an amazing year. But it took a lot out of me. In the semi-final I boxed that girl [Croatia’s Sara Beram] in the World Championships and didn’t have a problem and I think this time she came out and really gave it a go.
“It was just go, go, go from January when I was preparing for the Stranja tournament. Then got the Covid and Katie [Taylor], came back, went to Romania, then I was away for five weeks and back in training camp for the Commonwealth Games.
“Then I came back and it was time for the Europeans. So, I haven’t had that much time off this year. I really did feel it at the Europeans. I took four weeks off after without thinking about boxing. I could still do with another couple of weeks off.”
If the schedule wasn’t heavy enough Taylor’s name is a reference to the invitation to Broadhurst to travel out to Connecticut as sparring partner, one she took up. Taylor was preparing for the defence of her professional lightweight belts against Amanda Serrano in Madison Square Garden and flew Broadhurst to her training camp in Vernon, about 150km outside Boston.
The invitation alone was a nod to Broadhurst’s ability and capacity to live in the ring with perhaps the greatest female boxer there has ever been.
Where it all began was as the youngest of four with three older brothers and Dealgan Boxing Club in Dundalk. Her father Tony was the main motivator and for Amy he still is, with brothers Paul and Stephen also enjoying huge success as medal winners at European underage events.
Amy also tracked through the underage tournaments at international level, winning the European junior gold medal in 2012 and the European Youth gold in 2015. In 2019 her first major senior medal arrived when she travelled with the Irish team to Alcobendas in Spain, where boxing at lightweight she won the bronze medal.
The weight divisions have begun to be problematic with regard to the Olympic Games. Both Harrington and Broadhurst are easy fit lightweights, which is an Olympic class event. For either boxer to move up to the next Olympic weight division, they would have to put on around 12 pounds. That is why Broadhurst has been floating between weights for the major events.
“There have been times when it was tough and I wanted to walk away,” she says. “In the juniors and youths, when I’ve had a difficult time I’ve always thrown the toys out of the pram. My dad would speak to me and calm me down. He’s the reason I got to the High Performance [HP].
“I also get on very well with Eoin Pluck [HP Irish coach]. He’s very young and he’s able to keep me calm in the corner. He’s the one that has worked with me over the last few years constantly. I probably owe a lot to him this year. He’s the one that stuck with me and improved me this year.”
She recently posted a picture of herself with the keys to her new house, which she bought using the winnings of the $100,000 prize money for becoming world champion. Amateur boxing has changed. The incentive now is to keep the top players with prize money for medals, instead of watching them turn their ability towards professional boxing.
Her life may have dramatically changed over a thrilling 12 months. But despite the medals and the anointment from Taylor, she will doggedly remain the same person.
“I’m probably oblivious to everything that’s going on around me,” she says. “A lot more people know me especially in Dundalk. But I still think of myself as I was two years ago. Nothing special. I’m just in a sport that I’m doing well in.”