Katie Healy: “It’s really exciting at the moment for women’s boxing and it’s great to see how many successful female boxers that are around right now.”
In many ways, women’s boxing had a breakthrough year in 2020. Despite all the problems elsewhere in the world, and boxing as a whole suffering because of the worldwide pandemic, women’s boxing was given a prominent place on a massive platform when Eddie Hearn got the Matchroom shows up and running again last August. Any resentment, any lingering apathy was largely laid to rest as fight after fight delivered. People watched, they appreciated. Hearn deserves credit, for giving out that opportunity, and the momentum looks set to continue. There have been many false dawns, this time, it has the look of a more permanent upward trajectory.
The one thing the sport lacks at the minute is real depth. There is the novice stage and very quickly an aspiring fighter is thrust into more meaningful fights much quicker than their male counterparts. But 2021 promises to address this issue. The numbers will increase once the Olympics are over, or more likely cancelled, and more fighters will be turning over from the current Olympic cycle. These fighters will not only add depth, they will add real quality.
But maybe even more crucially there are many more who will have been inspired by the recent success of the likes of Katie Taylor, Terri Harper and others and will want to get into the sport themselves. This will include fighters from other combat sports switching over to boxing. One such hopeful is Wolverhampton’s Katie Healy who has recently turned professional with BCB Promotions after a highly successful kickboxing career. Healy first entered the world of combat sports aged just 11:
“I started when I was in secondary school. I was always quite sporty and my Dad took me to a class and from then it kind of developed into something more. I started competing when I was 15 and started doing full contact when I was around 16, and by the time I was 18 I was into the professional side of the sport with no headguards. I did it until about two years ago when I had a bit of a break from training and competing to focus on my university degree.”
From those initial tentative first steps, Healy went on to have her successful kickboxing career, winning numerous titles including reaching the pinnacle of her sport:
“I did quite well to be fair. I won three world titles in three different weight categories, and I won two English titles and one British title as well.”
Healy went to Aston University and graduated with a 2:1 in BSc Business and Management and now works full time in HR. The two years away from competitive sport also meant little or no training of any description in that time. Long hours in the job she was doing at the time and then moving to the University Healy was studying at, resulted in what she called a two year holiday. But fighters nearly always revert to what they know, where they feel most comfortable:
“I went back into the gym and that is when my transition to boxing started. I kind of achieved everything I wanted to do in kickboxing. I always wanted to win a world title and winning three was more than I could ever have imagined. I just got to the point where I wanted a new challenge and having trained with Rachel Ball since I was 15 and seeing what Rachel and the other girls had achieved in boxing it is really motivating and inspirational. There is also that drive in me where I am after that next step and a new challenge. It was exciting and I have learned a new sport from scratch again. Even though I had the basic fundamentals from kickboxing it is a completely different sport, the footwork and everything else it was just something new and exciting and I am learning every day.”
Healy told me how she lost herself in her time away, something was missing, almost instantly the gym gave her what she needed, what she had been missing:
“Going to the gym is like an escape, like a little family and while you are in there you have nothing else to think about. You can get the stresses out by hitting the bag, you are just concentrating on what you need to be doing and have a laugh with the people you train with, it’s a really nice environment to be in.”
Like many who compete in any sport, there is that love-hate relationship. The nerves can play havoc with emotions, but there is that high that is very hard to replicate anywhere else. If you have not competed in sport at any level it is probably hard to fully understand. The anxiety, hate even you sometimes get in the moment that is soon replaced by what you feel afterwards, the sense of satisfaction in what you have achieved:
“When I used to compete in kickboxing I used to say why am I doing this, every single fight I’d say that. My adrenalin used to make me so excited but very nervous as well, but I do it because I love it. When I first got back into sparring you realise how much you miss that buzz and the competitive side of the sport.”
There used to be apathy about women’s boxing, the rare times they were featured on a show would often be the excuse to go to the bar rather than try and watch something new. But Fight Camp was certainly a pivotal moment, the Terri Harper-Natasha Jonas fight especially so. But we have seen more of the same since, and there is little doubt that 2021 will continue what 2020 started.
Healy will compete at super-bantamweight where the talent pool is already especially strong. The likes of Rachel Ball, Shannon Courtenay, Carly Skelly, Amy Timlin and others are all around her weight division, and Healy is excited to be joining those names:
“It’s really exciting at the moment for women’s boxing and it’s great to see how many successful female boxers that are around right now. When you go into any sport the aim is to be the best of the best but it is really good to see all the talent around and not just at super-bantamweight, but all the other fighters in and around the division, it is phenomenal for the sport.”
When her professional journey will start is currently up in the air. There are still only a limited amount of shows going ahead and places on those cards are scarce and much sought after. But her social media accounts give hope that something is imminent:
“It is a really difficult one at the moment. In normal times I could probably give you a definite date of when I will be fighting. All I can say is Gavin Burrows is working on things in the background and we are hoping to get out sooner rather than later. I’ve been staying ready and keeping as fit as I can during this lockdown period and I am hoping to have some news very soon.”
There is no amateur experience to fall back on, and while there was talk about having some unpaid fights, discussions with her coach ended with a decision to turn professional, her style seemingly better suited to the paid ranks. Healy doesn’t lack self-belief or ambition, and with sparring going well and good progress being made the excitement in her voice to put the hard work into practice and show her progress was clearly evident. There is real trust in Burrows, built on her kickboxing background and the years spent together in the Trojan gym in Walsall.
Healy is like many other fighters, waiting not so patiently for an opportunity. Nothing is normal at the minute, dates are few and far between, and what opportunities are around can come with very little notice when someone else falls away at the last minute. But with Healy there is no rush, she is only 22, still learning in her new world. Time is on her side and once the world returns to whatever the new normal will be, Healy promises to be an exciting addition to her new sport.