Box Fresh: Elite Boxer, Clare Grace, Warms Up

21-year-old Clare Grace, 21, is ranked eighth in the world - and has sparred with Katie Taylor. She chats to us about boxing, balance and getting beaten up.

Elite boxer Clare Grace.“I started boxing when I was around 12. There was a club in the local town and my father brought me and my sister – I think he wanted us to be able to protect ourselves, to be strong, and I just took to it. I liked training on my own, and I kept it up from there.

“My father is a hurling and handball coach; we’d be a big GAA family. My brother plays soccer, football, handball… We were always encouraged to play sport when we were younger.

“One of the reasons I started taking it so seriously was because of my coach, Jimmy Welsh… he really encouraged me to keep going and to train hard.

“I split my time now – I’m in Dublin for the week, so I train in a boxing club in Dublin, in St Xavier’s. Sometimes at the weekends, I train with the national team – at the weekends I train in Callan.

I retained my title this year for the fourth time.

“At first, my biggest achievement was winning the senior championship – that’s the highest level of competition in Ireland. Winning that was a big deal – I retained my title this year for the fourth time.

“Last year, I won a bronze medal at the European championships. In November, in South Korea, at the world championships, I got to the last 16, so I guess my greatest achievement was working up the world rankings. I’m eighth at the moment.

“Sometimes people can look quite intimidating – but you learn to look past that. Anyone who’s trying to look intimidating is trying to psyche you out.

“I remember the first time I ever sparred anyone. It’s absolutely terrifying. The first time you get hit is a bit of as shock. But you get used to it; after a while, it’s just like any other sport.

“One of the things that I really like about boxing is that there’s a wide variety of training. You do a lot of boxing sessions – sparring, bag work, skipping – but then you have to do road work, core work, strength work. You have to do everything, so coming up to a competition you’d be trying to do at last one, maybe two sessions a day, and one day of rest a week – you’d be doing 10 or 11 sessions a week.

“It’s all about being organised, planning what you’re going to eat – up to a competition, you have to be getting stricter. It’s tough, because you’re training hard and then you have to restrict what you’re eating as well. It’s the one thing everyone hates – trying to get your weight down. I wouldn’t be worth talking to when I’m trying to do that.

“Obviously, Katie Taylor’s career would be the goal – but I don’t really know. It would be really cool for a couple of years, but I don’t know if I’d be made out for it, for five or 10 years.

Why wouldn’t you get involved in boxing? It’s great for fitness and discipline.

“Since Katie Taylor won gold at the Olympics, she’s been such a good role model. Why wouldn’t you get involved in boxing? It’s the same as getting involved in any sport – it’s great for teaching fitness and discipline, you meet a lot of people. I’d encourage anyone to start.

“This year there are the European Union games. In 2016 there are world championships, world games, Olympics… There are only three weights in the Olympics at the moment – 51, 60 and 75. My weight’s not in it, so I’d have to go up to qualify. I’m considering it, but I’m not really tall enough… I’ll see. It’s not just about putting on weight – someone who’s 75kg would be bigger than you and taller than you, with longer arms. You can’t just eat loads and, off you go…”

Pic credits: Naomi Gaffey.

Make-up: Nicola Cuddy.

Hair: Helen Kenny.

Shot on location in DCU Sports Centre.