Lynn Harvey relishing life as a professional boxer

The 35-year-old Dubliner conquered amateur ranks as a late starter before turning pro

 Lynn Harvey: “It was only when I hit 30 that I began to blossom. Boxing has allowed me to do that. It’s so much more than a sport for me.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Lynn Harvey: “It was only when I hit 30 that I began to blossom. Boxing has allowed me to do that. It’s so much more than a sport for me.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

She didn’t want to be rude to the tarot card reader. “She was my mate’s Ma, so I was sitting there thinking, ‘just be nice’.”

But once the cards were shuffled and laid out on the table Lynn Harvey became increasingly dubious.

“I can see you! You’re moving around and dancing,” said the Ma, “it’s boxing!”

Harvey chuckled inwardly at the prophecy. “At that stage I’d never even had my hand in a boxing glove.”

In or around three years later she took to the ring in the National Stadium with the tarot card representing victory tucked in to her boot – by the time she returned to the dressing room she was Ireland’s national senior flyweight champion.

She lifts her sleeve. Tattooed on her arm: ‘VI Wands’. The victory card.

So you believe in that stuff now?

She laughs. The jury’s still out, but it was, she says, wackily weird. Which is kind of how the 35-year-old from Kilbarrack in north Dublin would describe her life since she signed up for a boxercise class at Trinity Boys Boxing Club in Donaghmede.

“I was like any other girl carrying a bit of weight after having a baby, so I thought I’d just go and tone up. I had no intention of boxing. I’d never even been in a gym.”

She watched the boxers sparring, there was a spark she can’t explain, she was drawn to it, and soon she was sparring too.

You were almost 30 at this stage?

“And in boxing years that’s nearly retirement age – people were saying to me, ‘what are you doing, you’re an auld wan!’.”

First fight

In 2011 she had her first fight, at a white-collar boxing show at her club. “I got battered. Lovely girl, friend of mine. My Da was like, ‘Lynn, you’re 30, what did you expect? Cop on, get a normal hobby’. I just went back to the club and said I’m going to be a champion, wait ’til you see. You have to be crazy enough to believe you can do something extraordinary, but you need to be ballsy enough to try. I’m both.”

Her nine-year-old son Tyler has, though, never blinked at her career choice.

“He’s proud of me and he tells me that. If I can’t get a babysitter, I bring him with me to training and he’s seen me getting the head thumped off me by men in sparring. There was one time a fella dropped me with a liver shot. I didn’t go down, but I felt like puking. It didn’t bother Tyler. He’s just very laid back.”

She can’t explain where it all came from. She had little interest in sport, and wasn’t the fighting kind.

“I was never in scraps growing up, I wasn’t an angel but I wasn’t getting in to fights on the street. I remember a girl starting on us when we were about 12 and me being too afraid to jump in and help.”

“I was very insecure about myself, always doubting myself. It was only when I hit 30 that I began to blossom. Boxing has allowed me to do that, it’s so much more than a sport to me. It’s made me realise how tough I am in loads of different ways.”

She’s had to be tough too, the combination of depression and boozing leaving her at rock bottom at one point.

“I struggled with depression all my life, and it got worse as I got older. I just poured the drink on top of it, which was making it worse. I was a mad party animal, going out and getting locked at weekends. So I never really dealt with the depression, I just drowned it.

“It’s not gone, life’s not perfect, there are still bad days, but when I get them I’m just grateful because I’d have had a month of feeling great. There’s no miracle cure for it, but I have it very well suppressed with clean leaving. The most underused things in the battle against depression are exercise and healthy eating.”

Within three years of taking up the sport, Harvey had collected Irish Novice, Intermediate and Senior titles at which point she decided to give the Pro game a go, making her just the second female professional in Ireland after Christina McMahon.

Her pro debut a year ago at the Red Cow Hotel didn’t last long, her Bulgarian opponent Ivana Yaneva knocked out in 59 seconds. She’s had to wait 12 months for her second bout, a source of deep frustration.

“We got the ball rolling and then the ball was stopped. There were stages I wondered if I was doing the right thing, was I wasting my time? With all that stuff that happened with the shooting [at Dublin’s Regency Hotel at the weigh-in for the Clash of the Clans show], that put a big stall on pro boxing. And the few that happened, the promoters weren’t jumping to put me on them. But I just kept going.”

No interest

But now she has a place on the card for Red Corner Promotions’ debut show on November 5th at the National Stadium. Her opponent has yet to be confirmed, but Harvey has no interest in her identity anyway.

“I won’t even look her up, I don’t research my opponents. I just listen to my coach [Daniel O’Sullivan], the less I know about them the better. I am my biggest opponent. If I’m on form no one will stop me. If I’m having a bad day, I’ll stop myself.”

“When I started boxing I was unemployed, before that I was doing different jobs, waitressing, working in a daycare out in East Wall, different things. I never had a career and never even had an idea of what career I wanted. Little did I know this was going to come in to my life, and now it’s the only career I want. Even as a kid I didn’t have any dreams of what I wanted to be, I waited until I was 30 for that. As you do, when you’ve loads of time left,” she laughs.

Lynn Harvey fights in the National Stadium on November 5th as part of the Red Corner Promotions show – tickets can be purchased at 085-8244554.

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