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In profile: Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke – the golden girls of Irish boxing in Istanbul

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Ireland’s female boxers have given the nation more reason to celebrate than most in recent times. On Thursday afternoon, Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke carved their way into Irish sporting folklore with gold medal victories at the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul.

With Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington topping the list with gold medal wins at the 2012 and 2020 Olympics respectively, Broadhurst and O’Rourke showed that the wellspring of talent in amateur boxing runs deep.

Here we introduce both fighters after hoisting the tricolor highest at Başakşehir Sports Complex.

AMY BROADHURST

No Irish boxer deserves a break more than Amy Broadhurst.

The Dundalk fighter is a natural lightweight, in the same weight class as Ireland’s two Olympic champions, Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington.

But this obstacle hasn’t stopped her from achieving many of her goals.

Encouraged by her father Tony, Amy first put on a pair of boxing gloves when she was still in National School. It was evident early on that she had the talent and dedication to be something special.

She’s always had a special affinity for Katie Taylor, her childhood heroine.

In 2012 Broadhurst, then 15 years old, won a European schoolgirl title. But it was the coming home that her school, Dundalk Colaiste Ris, organized for her that left an indelible mark.

All the students and teachers gathered in the assembly hall to greet them, but the best was yet to come.

Taylor, who had won the gold medal at the London Olympics months earlier, entered the arena with her father, Pete. She gave Amy a book and a cake and then chatted with her. They have remained friends ever since.

Earlier this year, Broadhurst was invited by Taylor to compete against her ahead of her world title fight against Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in Connecticut. Like Serrano, Broadhurst is a southpaw contender.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. But Broadhurst has had many lows and their resilience has been remarkable.

At the 2018 World Championships in New Delhi, she fell victim to a sad decision in the light welterweight quarterfinals.

The judges and referee – who controversially deducted a point from her and ruled that her opponent had slipped when she hit the canvas in the final round – made up awarding the fight to Simranjit Baath Kaur of host country India.

Even the Indian TV commentators conceded that Broadhurst should have made the decision.

She bounced back and won a bronze medal at the 2019 European Lightweight Championships and won back-to-back gold medals at the 2018 and 2019 European Under-22 Championships.

But she lost to Kellie Harrington, who had been crowned lightweight champion at the 2018 world champions and was on pole at the Tokyo Olympics with 60kg to be Ireland’s representative.

Born on St. Patrick’s Day 1997, “Baby Canelo” – as she’s known in boxing circles – has finally secured some overdue dividends at Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Dome.

Broadhurst is now registered with St Bronagh’s BC in Rostrevor County Down and will represent Northern Ireland in the boxing tournament at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.

Her dilemma going forward is that there is no light welterweight category in the Paris Olympics program. If she falls back to lightweight, she faces Kellie Harrington and she needs to add at least seven pounds to compete at welterweight, which is an Olympic weight.

Harrington has said she will be retiring after Paris so Broadhurst could bid her time and wait for the Los Angeles games – she will only be 31 when they roll around. But at the moment boxing is not included in the program for the 2028 games.

Alternatively, she could pursue a career in professional boxing and follow in the footsteps of her heroine, Katie Taylor. At the moment she can celebrate fifth place on the podium at the World Championships.

LISA O’ROURKE

Until a few days ago, Lisa O’Rourke was better known in boxing as Aoife O’Rourke’s little sister. But the 20-year-old, who celebrated her birthday by winning her last 16 bouts in Istanbul, has now become the new star in Irish women’s boxing.

The siblings come from a prominent GAA family in Castlerea, County Roscommon. Her grandfather Dan O’Rourke is a former GAA President. He served as Fianna Fail TD and also coached the Roscommon team that won consecutive All-Ireland titles in 1943 and 1944.

Lisa is a talented all-around athlete who is a regular on the Roscommon women’s GAA team. She also won national basketball titles with her school and played soccer.

She followed her sister into Castlerea Boxing Club because the training program was highly regarded locally, but fell in love with boxing along the way.

Remarkably, Lisa has still not won an Irish Elite title, but the now former Head of IABA’s High Performance Unit, Bernard Dunne, has seen her potential.

Along with Amy Broadhurst, she attended the Ireland team’s pre-Olympic training camp in Japan last summer, although she is not funded by Sport Ireland.

She was training in Japan with Olympian Emmet Brennan and he recognized her raw talent.

She had a remarkable 2022 as she won the European U-22 light middleweight title before finding even more success at the World Championships in Istanbul.

Her speed in the ring combined with stunning footwork sets her apart from her opponents. She never seems the least bit worried and is obviously enjoying the experience at her first World Championship.

Her confident semi-final performance against a Turkish fighter, which left the judges no choice but to declare her the unanimous winner, was one of the outstanding performances of an Irish fighter at this level. Even Katie Taylor didn’t win a medal at her first World Championships in 2005.

Like Amy Broadhurst, O’Rourke faces a dilemma. There is no light middleweight category at the Paris Olympics, so she must either lose weight and box at welter, or move up to middleweight, which would mean challenging her sister.

The O’Rourke sisters left Castlerea Boxing Club earlier this year and now box at Galway’s Olympic Boxing Club.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/boxing/in-profile-amy-broadhurst-and-lisa-orourke-irish-boxings-golden-girls-of-istanbul-41668438.html In profile: Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke – the golden girls of Irish boxing in Istanbul

Fry Electronics Team

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