CRUMLIN Crumlin Boxing Club’s Leona Houlihan put a horror year of injuries behind her to regain the 80kg crown at the National Elite Finals in Dublin on Saturday night.
She was one of three boxers from the city to claim a national title, alongside Patryk Adamus of Drimnagh, Anthony Browne from St Michael’s, Inchicore and David Oliver Joyce of Ballymun.
Houlihan’s Crumlin club mate Dearbhla Duffy, meanwhile, lost out in her 57kg final against Michaela Walsh.
Adamus was victorious in the men’s 57kg category, beating Christian Cekiso of Portlaoise 3-2, while Joyce was a comfortable 5-0 winner over Dominic Bradley of Errigal in the 60kg weight class.
There was some controversy in the 91kg class as Browne was pronounced winner over Kenneth Okungbowa of Athlone on a countback after an accidental clash of heads forced a stoppage.
Houlihan edged past Aglish’s Lisa Browne on a scorecard of 3-2 following a bruising encounter at the National Stadium.
It was nip and tuck for all three rounds, with Houlihan taking a standing count in the first round but landing more shots in the second and third.
The 39-year-old’s victory is perhaps more remarkable in light of the fact she was coming off the back of a dislocated shoulder, which disrupted her preparation for the fight.
“It was a rough one alright,” Houlihan tells the Dublin Gazette.
“I felt like I had the first round, even though she got a count. It’s all such a blur almost.
“The second round, it was almost like she was throwing more accurate shots but I was throwing more shots.
“I felt a little bit busier. In the third round I was wrecked.
“I had dislocated my shoulder about four weeks before the match so I was only training with one hand.”
Houlihan, who is a medical scientist in the army, grew up in Tipperary but is an adopted Dubliner having lived here most of her adult life.
She played a variety of sports, from GAA to soccer to rugby, but she fell into boxing five years ago purely as a way to keep her fitness levels up.
Trainer Phil Sutcliffe at Crumlin BC identified that she had some talent and, before she knew it, she was competing at national level.
“I started it to just keep my fitness levels up and went to the boxercise classes and just loved it.
“Then Phil asked me to a fight for the club. I thought it was a white-collar fight.
“I did and it was great and I loved it. I got a buzz. Phil said I could get better and maybe compete at some level in the future and I stuck at it.
“There’s an army competition coming up so hopefully I’ll enter that, but it’s so difficult to find anything in my weight category, even spars.”