When Ryston’s top women’s boxer Dervla Duffy describes her current daily regime as “gruesome”, she’s only half joking.
Duffy is the hunt for a medal at the women’s EU Championships in Hungary, and has had a tough couple of weeks in the final preparations for a tournament which could have a major influence on her boxing career.
The Newbridge boxer gets up at 8am to check her weight. They she throws on a sweatsuit and “about four layers. I get on a bike in my kitchen – it’d be terrible for anyone to witness! - and do a hard session for about 45 minutes. You could lose up to two kilos doing that.”
Rehydration, rest and a meagre breakfast and lunch follow, before an hour’s bagwork at the home gym and some skipping “to burn fat”.
More rest follows. “You’d get tired when you’re not eating a lot, then I might have a bit of chicken for dinner,” she said.
Afterwards it’s into Ryston for a hour’s sparring session in the ring with the boys.
“I weigh myself after to that to see if I’m allowed anything,” she said.
“The final three weeks before a fight are very hardcore, you need to be very dedicated and very disciplined. You don’t see your family, they’d say, oh my god, you’re wasting away. You don’t socialise until it’s over, you get quite selfish, really.”
Duffy quit her job with security services company Manguard to concentrate on her training, but will be returning to work again after the upcoming championships.
Nobody said the road to glory was easy.
Duffy is part of a 27-strong Irish squad, which includes Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, heading to the EU Championships in Keszthely, Hungary. They fly out this Sunday, June 30,with the first fighters weighing in on Monday.
Duffy will face stiff competition in her division from English boxer Lisa Whiteside, currently ranked no 2 in the world.
“I will be going in as an underdog, which is where I would rather be,” said the softly-spoken 30-year-old Monaghan native, who is the Irish 54kg women’s champion.
Ryston will also be represented in the Junior division by 15-year-old Natasha Logan, fighting at 52kg.
The Newbridge club’s Paddy Hughes is also on the coaching panel, and Duffy says it will be of great assistance to have a familiar face in her corner.
The Kildare fighter acknowledges the investment the IABA has put into flying out the large contingent. “The Olympics has had a big impact on female boxing in Ireland,” she said.
Yet it’s still difficult for the Irish girls to get fights to get a sense of how they match up internationally. A team of female boxers from Germany held a training camp in Dublin last month, at which Duffy sparred against a potential EU championships opponent. She’s confident, but not cocky, about her chances. “At least it gave me an idea of what level I’m going in against,” she said.
Olympic champ Katie Taylor’s dominance of the 60kg category had an indirect influence on Duffy’s decision to drop weight in the last year. Her potential Irish rivals have gone down a division to better their own chances – Taylor was again crowned the unopposed Irish 60kg title holder at the National Elite Championships in February.
Faced with an influx into her 57kg category, the Ryston boxer decided to drop down a division herself to better her own chances of a national title.
The move worked in Duffy’s favour, and she walked away with her own bantamweight national title belt.
“I think that 54kg suits me better, I do feel it’s better for me to be boxing at that weight,” she said. “Some people do get weaker as they go down, but I don’t lose any muscle.
The Monaghan native moved to Kildare several years ago to work in the equine industry. A sports all-rounder, she played rugby with Newbridge and Gaelic for Sarsfields. She even made it into the Kildare set-up for a while, but found her true calling in the solitary, sweet science of the ring.
The routine, the discipline, and even the loneliness of boxing suits the teak-tough Duffy.
“In a team there’s always another person you could blame – there’s always too many other people you can rely on. In boxing, if you win or lose, you know that it was you that did it.
“I don’t drink or smoke, if you do those things, boxing wouldn’t suit you. If you were a ‘social boxer’, you would get in the ring and get hammered. You’d go in there and get found out. You can’t get in there and hide behind a team-mate. Everything you do is down to yourself.”
Duffy credits the Ryston set-up with her swift advance through the boxing ranks.
And like national idol Taylor, she spars with the boys, or, as she calls the Ryston boxers, “with some of the best in the country”.
“Boys hit harder, they are fitter, stronger, ahead of you with technical skills.”
Her favourite sparring partners are light-flyweight national champion Hughie Myers - “he’s small and fast and slippery in the ring”, and fellow club-mate Chris Phelan. “He’s one of the best boxers Ryston has ever produced,” she says of the army man.
When Duffy started boxing, some of the boys said she was too tough. It was a back-handed compliment, and also a warning.
The go-forward fighter has made a trademark of her agressiveness in the ring, to which anyone who saw her second-round stoppage of Michelle Lynch from the Golden Gloves club in the National Stadium last February can attest.
Yet her adrenaline-fuelled lack of fear, honed from years of working with horses and playing team sports, meant that taking hits cost her points in the chess-like world of boxing scoring. It’s a lesson she has taken on board.
“You do not want to be too tough. You have to be able to hit and get out.”
Long-term, Duffy’s goal is still a seat on the plane to Rio in 2016. The age-limit for Olympic boxers was recently raised to 40. While Duffy would have slid in under the wire for Rio, this at least gives her some time to play with.
More pressing is the announcement of the weight divisions which will be contested in the women’s competition in 2016. 51kg, 60kg and 75kg titles were contested in London, and it will be announced in September which, if any, other female weight divisions will be added. If the 54kg category isn’t included, she will have to make a decision in which category to futher her boxing career.
“If I went to 51kg I’d look like a little boy,” she laughed.
Longer term, Duffy can see herself involved in coaching.
“I’d like to try and bring on girls into the sport. If I’ve gone and done it, there’s more out there that could.”
Ryston has the biggest and best young female boxing section in the country, with seven winners in the recent national Girls Championship finals.
“The young ones would be swarming around you in Ryston, when I came back with the belt, they all wanted to get their pictures taken.
“You’re a role model to them and you have to act like a role model.”
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Ryston boxer Dervla Duffy last week linked up with her new sponsors, Sasta Fitness in Ladytown Business Park, Naas, to promote their recently-opened fitness facility.
The boxer has been using its fat-burning vacuum pod treadmilll to shed weight ahead of her trip to Hungary.
Exercise using the Sasta Fitness Pod accelerates fat buring by improving circulation to body parts which are naturally prone to excessive fat deposits, such as the abdomen, hops, buttocks and thighs.
For more information, visit www.sastafitness.ie.