It has often been said that Ireland is a nation of fighters and when it comes to sporting success that particular stereotype rings true.
In terms of medal hauls, boxing is far and away our most successful Olympic discipline. With 16 won in total, including two golds, five silvers and nine bronze, our boxers have consistently given Irish sports fans something to cheer about when the games roll around every four years.
We’ve also produced our fair share of World Champions, both amateur and professional. Names like Katie Taylor, Andy Lee, Steve Collins and Wayne McCullough are revered throughout the world but it’s not only the elite that can benefit from boxing.
As a sport it instills discipline, commitment, fitness and healthy eating, while also helping with self-esteem and confidence building. Unlike many field sports like soccer or rugby, in boxing there is no chance of being left to watch on the sideline. There is a place for everyone inside the boxing gym.
While rowing and gaelic football may take up the majority share of column inches in West Cork when it comes to sport, there is a thriving local boxing scene which caters to people of all ages and all abilities.
Andy Kerins has produced many champions since forming Bantry Boxing Club in 2001 but as he says himself it’s not all about training fighters to compete.
“Weight loss is a major thing, but developing healthier habits and a more regular training and exercise regime is equally important. A lot of people (who train in boxing) learn life skills that stand them in good stead for many years to come,” Keirns says.
Over in Dunmanway Sean Sheehan is the man in charge of the club that was originally opened by Keirns in 2011. With members ages ranging from nine to 44 there can be no doubt that everyone is welcome at Dunmanway Boxing Club.
“We have around 45 members in total and we’ll take any age. Whether you’re a boxer looking to compete in the Munster championships or someone trying to get back in shape there is a place for you here” Sheehan says.
“It’s a great sport for young and old as it improves speed and reflexes while also helping to build self-belief.”
Colm O’Regan is the head coach at the newly formed Ilen River Boxing Club in Skibbereen and as well as training boxers to compete he also sees the positive impact boxing can have on one’s mental health.
“It’s an activity that challenges the mind as well as the body. People can do it to clear their head from everyday stresses while also achieving better physical and mental health. There’s more to boxing then two people punching each other,” O’Regan says.
As well as offering traditional boxing classes, O’Regan also runs fitness based boxing classes for people looking to get back in shape and although most classes are mixed there are some separate classes on offer for men and women.
“From experience I feel some men do not feel comfortable training in front of women and vice-versa so we try to cater everyone and make sure no one feels uncomfortable.”
It’s not all about losing weight and getting fit though. The thrill of getting in the ring is also something Andy Keirns feels strongly about.
“The sense of achievement when you have done it is enormous, as you also know that you have done this on your own sweat. There’s massive adrenaline rush!”
If you would like to try boxing you can contact Sean Sheehan, Dunmanway on 0860663914 or Colm O’Regan, Skibbereen on 0830615471.