"There’s a video when I was 6 or 7 having my first fight and I just said nothing is going to stop me from boxing. And now look at me, nearly 20 years on…it’s crazy."
Amy Broadhurst was still trying to catch her breath. It was indeed 'crazy'. And it was only going to get crazier. As the 25-year-old Dundalk native talked to the backstage interviewer in Istanbul and tried to take in the fact that she had become just the fourth Irish boxer ever to claim a world title, behind her, back out in the World Championships ring she had just left, Ireland teammate Lisa O'Rourke was climbing through the ropes.
Within minutes, Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Kellie Harrington didn't just have Broadhurst for company but
O'Rourke, the 20-year-old debutant from Roscommon, too. As far as 30-minute spells in the history of Irish boxing go, this was unprecedented. Crazy and then some.
The 2022 IBA Women's World Championships will live long in the memory as a place where Broadhurst and O'Rourke joined Ireland's amateur boxing icons and again proved that the fighters, though they should never have to, can climb above the dysfunction that blights the sport here.
"I don’t even know yet. It doesn’t even feel real," said Broadhurst in the minutes after her victory over Algeria’s Imane Khelif in the 60-63kg gold medal bout.
"I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little girl and sometimes you don’t think it’s going to happen because of all you have to overcome. I’ve come a long way in the last two years. It’s unbelievable. The best day of my life. I kept getting beaten at the quarter-finals. This is my fifth World Championships and I’ve done it. I was sent here at 63kg and I’ve proven myself that I am just as capable."
It was a brilliant display of pressure fighting by Broadhurst, who overcame a big height disadvantage to claim a unanimous points decision. After a close first round, Broadhurst got well on top to outwork and outpunch the Algerian.
She became the first Irish women’s world champion since Harrington, who won gold in New Delhi in 2018. The only other Irish gold medallist was Taylor, who won five times between 2006 and 2014. O'Rourke would follow within minutes.
Broadhurst had to overcome a five-inch heigh disadvantage. But as Khelif tried to stay on the outside and prod away with her jab, the Irish boxer tried closing the gap and the more the first round wore on, the more success she had, as she landed well with the left hook as the Algerian tried to pull back out of range.
That success saw Broadhurst take a close first round on three of the five judges’ cards, but Khelif started the second round well, catching Broadhurst with one-twos and switching her attack to the body.
As the second round ended, it was Broadhurst landing the cleaner punches, while the Algerian started to fade. Broadhurst swept the board with the five judges, with two give her the round 10-8.
Three judges went to Broadhurst by 29-28, while two judges scored it 30-26.
The championships are the first since the rebranding of the international governing body from AIBA to the IBA. They could also prove life changing for gold medallists, who pick up $100,000 in prize money, vastly more than would be available to most female boxers in the professional sport.
As Broadhurst caught her breath, her teammate joined her in such rarified air. O'Rourke, on the opposite end of the experience scale, again made a mockery of the value of such things as she claimed a 4-1 split decision to beat Alcinda Panguane of Mozambique in the 70kg final and claimed a big pay cheque all of her own.
"It’s class. It’s just been such a Championship. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and to get on top of the podium is something else," said O'Rourke who added world gold to silverware she'd picked up with the Roscommon ladies footballers just last month. "It’s class. I’m just over the moon. I’m only 20-years-old. I didn’t think I would get on the podium that quick.
"The coaches have been brilliant. The high performance in Ireland is top class and of course my club coach from Olympic Galway have been unbelievable. My family and friends and my sister on the team with me, it just makes it so much better. I can’t complain at all!"
While Broadhurst’s win had been overwhelming, O’Rourke was never able to fully subdue Panguane and needed a good final round to confirm victory.
O’Rourke stayed on the move early on, while Panguane came after her, but despite getting an early warning for a slap, O’Rourke had success with her left jab and then attempted a straight right when Panguane got close.
There was little peace for O’Rourke, though, as Panguane kept the pressure on her and the judges were split 3-2 in the Irish boxer’s favour after the first round.
Things got more comfortable for O’Rourke in the second round, as Panguane’s feet started to slow and O’Rourke was able to get more space between the pair, picking Panguane off as she moved backwards. The judges were once again split 3-2 in O’Rourke’s favour, which gave her a big lead, although Panguane could still get the verdict by taking the final round.
O’Rourke started the final round fast, winging in punches from distance and then landing the cleaner shots as things got wild in close. O’Rourke went on the move in the final round, although Panguane landed a big straight left just before the final bell.
Then came the decision and O'Rourke lept into the Istanbul air and into the arms of Team Ireland Head Coach, Zauri Antia. A 30 minutes unlike any that had come before. Crazy indeed.