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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

'In four years, I don't think Kellie will be able to beat me... I won't be stepping down for anyone then'

After suffering a controversial defeat at the World Championships, Amy Broadhurst has her eye on Ireland’s own world champion.

Amy Broadhurst will take a step back for the 2020 Olympics after Kellie Harrington's world gold, but she doesn't intend to play the waiting game beyond that.
Amy Broadhurst will take a step back for the 2020 Olympics after Kellie Harrington's world gold, but she doesn't intend to play the waiting game beyond that.
Image: Amy Broadhurst/Facebook

THE TERM ‘FINE margins’ is often applied to sport but scarcely do these fine margins have such a profound effect on a sporting legacy as they do in boxing.

At the end of the 14th round of the Thrilla in Manilla, an exhausted Muhammad Ali — who later described his victory over nemesis Joe Frazier as the closest thing to death that he had ever known — pleaded with his cornermen to cut off his gloves.

Had Angelo Dundee adhered to his fighter’s request before Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, signalled the end in the opposite corner, the heavyweight icons’ names would likely feature in reverse order in the consensus all-time rankings.

Were it not for those few seconds on Wednesday 1 October, 1975, it wouldn’t have taken the city of Philadelphia until 2015 to unveil a statue of its great champion Smokin’ Joe, some 33 years after the steps to its Art Museum were first decorated with a statue of a fictional heavyweight boxer played by an actor from New York.

Were it not for those few seconds, ‘The Greatest’ would likely today be considered merely ‘one of the greats’. But such are the joys.

Last month, Amy Broadhurst’s medium-term future in the ring was shaped either by fine margins or something altogether more nefarious.

Most observers — including one of her opponent’s coaches — felt she had gotten the better of Indian Simranjit Baath Kaur in her World Championship 64kg quarter-final, but the 21-year-old was controversially put out on a split decision a round shy of the medal stages.

Days later, Broadhurst warmly applauded from the stands as she watched her Irish rival and team-mate Kellie Harrington deservedly come out on the right end of the same verdict to win gold in the Olympic division of 60kg, all the while cognisant that any ambition she harboured of fighting at Tokyo 2020 — if indeed boxing makes the Games at all — had been all but ended by Harrington’s extraordinary triumph.

Broadhurst and Harrington might yet forge their own era-defining rivalry within the realm of Irish amateur boxing, but after events in New Delhi, it likely won’t kick off in earnest until 2020.

All in all, it’s been a fairly sore few weeks for the young standout.

47138641_2380506385510115_617577638164168704_n (1) Michaela Walsh, Gráinne Walsh and Broadhurst celebrate Harrington's World Championship gold.

“Everything that happened over the three rounds against the Indian… It was very hard to take, so it was,” Broadhurst tells The42.

“Firstly, the knockdown that wasn’t ruled a knockdown: at the time I thought that maybe it was a slip, but when I watched it back I saw that I had landed a shot. She didn’t slip at all!

Then, when I took the public warning [a point deduction in amateur boxing] even though I had landed a perfect shot… It was then that I kind of realised that I wasn’t going to get the decision.

“When he [the referee] warned me in the first round for ‘slapping’, I had never once slapped. I don’t think I did, anyway.

“I threw a one-two, then I took a step back and threw another one-two… And I’ve never, ever slapped with my backhand. So, when he warned me, I didn’t really understand. It was a bit confusing, so it was.

In every one of my fights, my one-twos were working fine. There was no slapping going on. I never slap. And he only warned me two or three times before he gave me the public warning and took the point off, whereas the Indian in the final at 57 kilos — I think if anyone deserved a public warning, it was her. She was warned about 11 times but there was still no public warning given!

“The shot that resulted in me getting that public warning — when I watched it back the commentators said: ‘Oh, that was a thunderous left hand!’

I put the clip on Twitter, so I did, and the likes of Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Carl Frampton, a lot of them agreed that it wasn’t a slap — that I did land a left hand.

“As soon as I got that public warning”, Broadhurst adds, “that’s when doubts start to creep in, to be fair. I knew I’d won the first round; the second round, I had lost. So it all really depended on the last round and I felt up until that point I was in control and I was the better boxer, but when I lost that point with 30 seconds to go, I felt it was gone.

“I just started throwing and marching forward, but I think I needed to knock her out at that stage…”

Broadhurst, a 15-time Irish champion at underage level as well as the reigning 64kg English Senior Elite champion on her father’s side, admits that while she can review the fight with a wry smile, it continues to “hurt on the inside.”

Still, she’s adamant that she can distil that pain into a positive: while she has to park her Olympic ambitions until the next cycle due to Kellie Harrington’s vice grip on lightweight eminence, she at least knows that even with time on her side, she can already mix it at the top end of her sport.

“At the end of the fight I put my hand up to let the crowd know that I knew I had won the fight, whatever the scores,” she says. “And then as soon as I heard ‘split decision’, I wasn’t really shocked. I was just upset.

When I lost, I didn’t really put up on social media that I was ‘robbed’ or anything like that. That’s not me — I don’t like crying robbery. But everyone was texting me saying it was a disgrace. And then when I watched it back… Like, I’ve watched it back about eight times now. It’s very bitter to watch.

“But I’m just happy with my performance, to be perfectly honest. I fought to my very best, and I can’t really control anything outside of that.

“My first two performances before the Indian were probably the best I’d ever boxed, really. I felt I had adjusted well considering I was stepping up to the Elite level from the youth ranks.

I proved in those couple of fights that I’m capable of competing at the very top. And my performance against the Indian, regardless of the result, proved that I’m up there with the very best.

“The positive that I can take from it is that every time I’ve lost, or every time something bad has happened, I’ve always come back and done something better.

The 2020 Olympics is out the window for me now, but I’m looking towards 2024. I’ve so many years ahead of me to achieve what I’ve always wanted to achieve. If I wanted to, I could stick in the game for 10 more years.

47223891_2380506378843449_744666472072085504_n (1) Amy Broadhurst poses with 60kg world champion and former Irish final opponent Kellie Harrington.

The Dundalk woman has previous where rebounding from defeat is concerned: in February 2018, Broadhurst’s Irish Senior Elite final with Kellie Harrington, in front of a capacity National Stadium crowd and broadcast live on RTÉ, was mooted as the potential fight of the night.

It was the Dubliner who had her hand raised in the end, outboxing Broadhurst to earn an eighth national title at Elite level — a result which reduced the younger ‘Baby Canelo’ to tears as she excused herself from the squared circle.

Just over a month later, Broadhurst won European gold at the U22 championships in Romania — her fifth major international honour in the underage ranks.

“I think if you looked at my performance against Kellie versus my performance at the Worlds, anyone would see that my performance against Kellie just wasn’t my best,” she says.

“But if I would have won that fight against Kellie, I would never have went to the Europeans [U22s] in Romania and I would never have won another European gold medal. That, for me, was an eye-opener — it made me think that everything does happen for a reason.

“There’s positives to take from everything, even a loss in the ring.

“There was no respect between me and Kellie when we boxed each other in February, I don’t think. We probably weren’t major fans of each other, but we’ve spent four weeks together away at the Worlds and we’ve gotten to know each other.

Kellie is nearly 29, so she is, and the fact that it’s taken her this long to get to where she is — that’s a bit of an eye-opener for me. For years and years, she took a step back because of Katie Taylor and she never really got the opportunities that she deserved.

“But over the last two years, she has really proved herself. I have to take my hat off to her. Fair play to her. She boxed class over there [in New Delhi], so…”

Amy Broadhurst and Kelly Harrington Broadhurst (red) and Harrington exchange during their February Irish Senior Elite final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Whether Harrington remains on the scene or moves on post-Tokyo is irrelevant to Broadhurst, who has no intention of waiting in the wings for as long as Harrington was forced to during the Katie Taylor era.

Understandably given her significant underage pedigree as well as her displays as a Senior Elite at the Worlds, the Louth youngster doesn’t feel she’s a million miles away even now.

In two years’ time, she maintains, she’ll be primed to take the reins at lightweight by hook or by crook.

“Regardless of what Kellie does up until 2020, come the end of those Olympics, I’ll start challenging,” she says.

“I have to take a step back for Kellie ahead of the Tokyo Olympics because of what she’s just achieved, which I’ve accepted. Come 2024, though, I won’t be taking a step back — that’s my time. The Olympics has always been a dream of mine, and I’m not going to be waiting 10 years or whatever to get there.

Going into 2024, I think I’m going to be in my prime. In four years, I don’t think Kellie will be able to beat me. As a boxer, I have so much to learn and so much to experience, whereas she has already experienced it all. She’ll really be on her way out then, in 2024. She’ll be 33 or 34.

“I’m patient enough to hang around for a few years, but come 2024 I’m going to be hungry to get to the Olympics. I won’t be stepping down for anyone then.

“I think it will add a lot more interest and attention to the sport if we box each other again. That’s no bad thing.

“But look, fair play to Kellie. I wish her the best of the luck, so I do.”

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‘There were many times when she’d come into the house crying… She wanted to walk away from it’

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