28 February 2019

Northern Ireland's only professional boxer Cathy McAleer on Kellie Maloney link-up, her fight for women in sport and how, at 41, she's as fit and hungry as ever

Northern Ireland's only professional boxer Cathy McAleer has said it does not bother her that new manager and promoter Kellie Maloney used to vehemently oppose female fighters.

The 41 year-old, who signed a three-year deal with Maloney at the end of last year, has won all three of her bouts since turning professional in November 2018.

And while she recognises the past Maloney has when it comes to her comments about women's boxers in the 1990s - something she addressed in her own interview with NewsChain earlier this week - McAleer insists that was one of the first conversations the pair had when discussing the link-up.

Speaking exclusively to NewsChain, she said: “That’s one of the first conversations I had with her.

“In my eyes, I thought ‘she’s transitioned to a woman, her passion is boxing, the sport is changing, look at Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams’. And I thought if she is in any way moving with the times she’s going to know that female sport is becoming massive.

"I said ‘female sport is becoming really big, I know you weren’t an advocate in the past’ and she said ‘I’ll be totally honest with you, females weren’t commercial, it wasn’t possible to do it because we couldn’t get them on TV or get the ticket sales they needed'.

“I totally got that so I asked ‘what’s your thought process now?’ and she said ‘Oh my god, it’s growing as fast as men's sport. There’s such an opportunity there, my mindset has totally changed, I’d love to work with you. And now I’m a female, even more so'."

McAleer revealed she is no stranger to encountering an individual who has the mentality of somebody who is or was against female fighting.

“To be honest I was in that era when women’s boxing wasn’t seen. I got it in martial arts and karate too, people saying women shouldn’t fight," she added.

“I’ve had it all my life. My father has never seen me fight in his life, he doesn’t agree with female fighting. So I kind of was aware of the old thought process, the old ethos of ‘women should be at home having families, in the kitchen doing the cooking’. That’s how I was brought up too and I battled it in every sport I was in."

She also remembers a story from when she was at school and wanted to play in the football team, but was prevented from doing so until the teacher realised just how good she was.

“I remember standing outside the PE teacher’s door and asking if I can play on the football team and he said ‘no, it’s a boys team’ and I said ‘well I want to play and there’s no girls team’ and the boys used to fight for me and say I played better than the boys," she said.

“And then he gave me ten minutes at the end of one game and after that he goes ‘you can play!’

“So, I’ve always fought that fight and I think the mist is starting to clear now and I hope loads of younger girls start doing it now, realising it is acceptable, that you can do it."

McAleer is attempting to become a four-discipline world champion having already acquired world titles in karate, MMA and kickboxing.

And while a sportsperson in their 40s would often be considered past their best, the Northern Irish contender insists she feels better than ever.

She said: “It’s funny, when I say my age I can’t believe it myself. I’m 41 and I still feel like I’m in my 20s.

“I feel as if I’m still young. I train really hard, I spar boys in the club who are in their mid 20s. They’re growing up and I’m not and I’m thinking ‘I’ve still got this’.

“The day that I get beat or I’m not quick enough to react I will say ‘OK I think it’s time to give it up’. But right now I’m feeling pretty good and pretty fit.”

Incredibly, McAleer has to balance her training with her day-to-day jobs as a personal trainer, beauty therapist and karate school entrepreneur.

There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for her to successfully train to world level while also earning a living, but somehow she makes it work.

"I’m constantly training, even when I’m working with clients I’m still training, which obviously helps with fitness. And then I train twice a day in the boxing club.

“A lot of people that I talk to go ‘how do you fit it in?’ but I’ve always done it, it feels no different. It doesn’t feel like work, it’s something that you enjoy doing it so you love it."

McAleer's next fight is at the Holte Suite in Aston Villa FC's Villa Park stadium on February 22.

She had two Commonwealth title fights cancelled at the end of last year and so believes she is more than ready to fight for major belts.

But, with a new team behind her consisting of Maloney and sponsors 'Its4women', she is also aware that despite her age, she is in no hurry.

“I’m good to go but I’m not in no rush either. I’m happy to be managed and have a proper plan in place," she said.

“Kellie’s got this ambition of promoting the first ever all-female boxing bill and I think that would be absolutely massive. And to headline that would be even bigger for me.

“She said at the press conference she expects me to fight for a world title within the next two years and my coach chipped in and said a year and a half! So we all had a good laugh about that.

“I’ve already got four fights signed for this year. I don’t know if they’re for titles, I’ve just been told I’ve got four fights. So, I’m happy that I’ve got a proper plan and a proper team in place."

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