glory | 

Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke – Irish boxing’s golden girls of Istanbul

Ireland’s Amy Broadhurst with the gold medal, Algeria’s Imane Khelif with the silver medal, and Parveen of India with the bronze medal 
at the 2022 IBA Women's World Boxing Championships finals in Istanbul. Photo: Inpho/Aleksandar Djorovic

Ireland’s Amy Broadhurst with the gold medal, Algeria’s Imane Khelif with the silver medal, and Parveen of India with the bronze medal at the 2022 IBA Women's World Boxing Championships finals in Istanbul. Photo: Inpho/Aleksandar Djorovic

Sean McGoldrick

Ireland’s female boxers have given the nation more reason than most to celebrate of late and on Thursday afternoon, Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke fought 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 leading the way with gold medal wins at the 2012 and 2020 Olympics respecitvely, Broadhurst and O’Rourke demonstrated that the well of talent in amateur boxing runs deep.

Here we profile both fighters after hoisting the tricolour highest at the Başakşehir Sports Complex.

AMY BROADHURST

Amy Broadhurst

Amy Broadhurst

No Irish boxer deserves a break more than Amy Broadhurst.

The Dundalk fighter is a natural lightweight, the same weight division as Ireland’s two Olympic female 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 donned a pair of boxing gloves while still at national school. It was evident early on she had the talent and commitment to be special.

She has always had a special affinity with Katie Taylor, her childhood hero.

In 2012 Broadhurst, then aged 15, won a European schoolgirls title. But it was the home coming her school Dundalk Colaiste Ris organised for her which left in indelible mark.

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

Taylor, who had won the gold medal at the London Olympics months earlier, walked into the hall together with her father Pete. She presented Amy with a book and a cake and afterwards chatted with her. They have remained friends since.

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

It was a once in a lifetime experience. But Broadhurst has had plenty of lows as well and her resilience has been remarkable.

She was the victim of a woeful decision in the light welterweight quarter-finals at the 2018 World championships in New Delhi.

The judges and the referee – who controversially docked her a point and ruled that her opponent slipped when she hit the canvas in the last round - contrived to award the fight to Simranjit Baath Kaur from the host country India.

Even the Indian TV commentators acknowledged Broadhurst ought to have got the decision.

She bounced back to win a bronze medal in the lightweight division at the 2019 European championships and won successive gold medals at the 2018 and 2019 European U-22 championships.

But she lost out to Kellie Harrington who having been crowned world champion in the lightweight division at the 2018 World champions was in pole position to be Ireland’s representative at 60kg at the Tokyo Olympics.

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

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

Her dilemma going forward is there is no category for light welterweights in the programme for the Paris Olympics. If she drops back to lightweight she will face Kellie Harrington and she needs to add at least three kilos to compete at welterweight which is an Olympic weight.

Harrington has said she will retire after Paris, so Broadhurst could bide 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 programme for the 2028 Games.

Alternatively, she could pursue a career in professional boxing following in the footsteps of her hero Katie Taylor. For the moment she can celebrate making the podium at the World championships at the fifth time of asking.

LISA O’ROURKE

Up until a few days ago Lisa O’Rourke was better known in boxing as Aoife O’Rourke’s baby sister. But the 20-year-old who celebrated her birthday by winning her last 16 bout in Istanbul has now emerged as the new star in Irish women’s boxing.

The siblings are from a well-known GAA family in Castlerea, County Roscommon. Their grandfather Dan O’Rourke is a former GAA President. He served as a Fianna Fail TD and also trained the Roscommon team which won back to back All-Ireland titles in 1943 and 1944.

Lisa is a talented all-round sportswomen who features regularly on the Roscommon ladies 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 regime was highly rated locally but fell in love with boxing along the way.

Remarkably Lisa still hasn’t won an Irish Elite title but the now ex-Head of the IABA’s High Performance Unit Bernard Dunne spotted her potential.

Together with Amy Broadhurst she participated in the Irish squad’s pre-Olympic training camp in Japan last summer though she is not funded by Sport Ireland.

She sparred with Olympian Emmet Brennan while in Japan and he recognised her raw talent.

She has had a remarkable 2022 winning the European U-22 title in the light middleweight division before achieving even more success at the World championships in Istanbul.

Her fleetness around the ring combined with dazzling footwork sets her apart from her opponents. She never looks in the least fazed and is obviously enjoying the experience at her debut World championships.

Her assured semi-final performance against a Turkish fighter which gave the judges no option but to declare her the unanimous winner was one of the outstanding performance were fashioned by an Irish fighter at this level. Not even Katie Taylor won 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 will either have to slim down and box at welter or move up to middleweight which would mean challenging her sister.

The O’Rourke sisters left Castlerea Boxing club at the start of this year and now box out of Olympic Boxing Club, Galway.


Today's Headlines

More Boxing

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices