Katie Healy: “I feel ready and I have a really good feeling about the fight.”

Katie Healy: “I feel ready and I have a really good feeling about the fight.”

I first met Katie Healy in person last May in Sheffield. She would have gone unnoticed to many except for the hand wraps that highlighted her trade, wandering around a car park converted into a boxing arena, before her first foray into the boxing world. The former World Kickboxing Champion was doing the rounds greeting friends and family who had braved the relentless weather to see her professional debut.

The world had just started revolving again, boxing with fans in attendance felt a little strange. The odd few nervous punters still wearing masks, the majority clearly enjoying their first night of freedom after the pandemic. Some a little too much. But this was very much a night to be back indoors.

It was a cold and wet night, very cold, very wet. The ringside seats were barely taken, like me, plenty were seeking the premium places of shelter as a priority. I was lucky, I found a place of safety, the family of Healy less so. Shivering in the winter-like temperatures, the umbrellas offered only feeble resistance to the Sheffield weather. But their suffering was worthwhile, Healy won on a night where she did more sliding than punching on the rain-affected ring.

But just over a year on from that debut, Healy was only a week away from a possible life-changing fight in South Africa when I spoke to her over Zoom.

It is a fight that came out of the blue, and one that she doesn’t want to put at risk. With Covid cases again on the rise, Healy has taken sensible measures to make sure the lingering virus doesn’t derail her big opportunity:

“I’m trying to stay away from people until I fly. It is in the back of my mind a little bit. For my last fight, I wasn’t very well and it really affected my performance and I said I wouldn’t do that again. We kind of forgot about Covid for a little while, we didn’t hear about it but now the numbers are on the rise again and you keep hearing about people who have Covid. I’m working from home this week rather than working in the office. If I am going to get it I am going to get it, but if you can reduce the risk of getting it, I am trying my hardest to do so.”

Healy has every right to be concerned. the unbeaten prospect was ill during Fight Week before her last fight against Gabriella Mezei in April. Healy scraped home only by virtue of a narrow 58-57 scorecard. But winning when not at full capacity, overcoming her first real taste of adversity, Healy can still take many positives out of the fight:

“I think it was just some sort of virus. I was doing the Covid tests around Tuesday in Fight Week. Around that time there were just so many cold and flu viruses going around and obviously, we had been locked away so long so we are now getting everything thrown at us. I don’t think it was Covid but it just knocked me about whatever it was.

“100% I can take away positives from my last fight. Watching it back I definitely won the fight, I won the first four rounds, and probably lost the last two rounds. There were a lot of positives I took out of it, I was initially very down after the fight. I had put so much work into preparing for the fight. But it was just one of those things. I shouldn’t have gone in the ring but I didn’t want to let anyone down. I just thought I had to go in the ring and get the job done. She was a very tough opponent and to beat her when I was only at 20 or 30% is a big positive I can take from that. That’s what I’ve taken from that experience and also to learn from it and listen to my body. If I am not 100% again I won’t be stepping into the ring it’s too dangerous a sport anything can happen in there.”

This Friday in South Africa Healy will challenge Matshidiso Mokebisi a 32-year-old South African, for the WBF super-bantamweight title. The call came out of nowhere, probably a little bit early after just four fights, but it was an opportunity that just had to be taken:

“I don’t think it has sunk in yet. I knew that women’s boxing progressed quickly but I didn’t think 12 months ago I would be going to South Africa and fighting for a world title. But I think that the team I have got behind me have made this happen for me and as soon as I heard about this opportunity I knew I couldn’t turn it down. It is a bit soon if I am being totally honest, but when opportunities like this happen you can’t turn them down.”

It is the first 10-rounder of her career and a fight that is taking place at altitude. But neither holds any fears for a fighter who clearly is relishing testing herself on a bigger stage against a far more experienced opponent. Training has gone up many levels, and steps have been taken to prepare for the thinner altitude air in South Africa:

“I’ve had to up my training for the fight but I feel ready and I have a really good feeling about the fight. I am more than ready and excited to see how I perform. I’ve been sleeping in an altitude tent for the last few weeks. It was Hannah Rankin who suggested to me to do some altitude training before I go to South Africa. So I was straight to Google to see what I could do. I bought an altitude mask for when I go on my runs and the tent as well. It’s been strange don’t get me wrong but towards the end, it has become second nature and now I m used to it. I have seen a massive improvement in my performance through training and sleeping in the tent for 8 hours a night and breathing in thinner air. So it’s just another thing we have brought into this training camp.”

The excitement is evident, even over Zoom, if she has any fear or doubts, Healy hides them well. Very well. The confidence in her trainer Gavin Burrows and the likes of Dennis Hobson and Fightzone is obvious. It does seem like one of those times, where everything is clicking into place. But she is not underestimating her opponent who is 25 fights into her career:

“Like I said it is an exciting opportunity that we just couldn’t turn down. And the fact that it is in South Africa as well, I have never been so excited for a fight. It’s very rare I watch footage of my opponents but this time Gavin made me watch some of her fights. Straight away I said to Gavin, I can win this. Don’t get me wrong she’s very good, very strong and she has her strengths. But I really do believe if our game plan goes to plan and I give it my absolute all I think that belt is coming back with me, I really do think that.”

The WBF might be one of the lesser regarded world titles on offer today in a frankly ridiculously oversaturated marketplace, but the title could be the gateway to bigger things down the road:

“I do believe when I bring this title home it will open so many more doors for me. All the way through my Martial Arts career when I have that challenge in front of me I perform at my best. The tougher the opponent is when I shine the most.”

The fight on Friday night is a pivotal one for Healy. A win, as she says, opens many doors for her both in her super-bantamweight division and at bantamweight. Healy says there would be no problem cutting a few more pounds to make bantamweight, a division which has high-profile names such as Ebanie Bridges, Jamie Mitchell and Shannon Courtenay in residence. The importance of the fight isn’t lost on Healy. Win, and everything changes for her.

Healy doesn’t bring the boxing experience of her opponent, but she brings confidence and plenty of it. Sometimes in life, belief is the deciding factor. I have a feeling Healy will wake up on Saturday morning with plenty of options ahead of her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s