O'Leary finds feet as a pro
Limerick woman's decision working as she seeks title tilt
"I took a punt and, thankfully, it's working out so far," says Siobhan O'Leary, the Limerick-based Tralee woman who will fight for the BBBofC Celtic Nations title in Scotland next month.
The "punt" the super featherweight is talking about is the decision she took 18 months ago to turn pro.
The way she tells it, Siobhan was having "a bit of a crisis" and was unsure whether she should carry on in amateur boxing.
The eureka moment came when she found her optimum weight.
"I carry natural power and that comes from me reaching my optimum fighting weight," she explains. "When I came down to 60kg in the amateurs, I was stopping girls. Now with the small gloves and no headgear, I'm knocking girls out."
Working twice a week in Dublin with coach Eddie Hyland, O'Leary feels she's making huge strides.
"Every day, I'm adding these new skills to my toolbox and moving forward," she enthuses. "In pro boxing, you have to utilise the power in a different way. It has to be a sustained, methodical use of your power."
With two decisive stoppages in her three unbeaten wins, O'Leary believes she's benefiting from the ground-breaking work of Irish female boxers such as Deirdre Geraghty and Christina McMahon, who she describes as "the women who kicked open the door for us".
"With the rising profile of Katie Taylor and the team of female killers we have on our amateur team, women's boxing has been afforded a much wider profile," says Siobhan.
On September 6, O'Leary meets Scottish fighter Eftychia Kathopouli (2-1) in Strathclyde in what coach Eddie Hyland believes will be a tough test.
"While Kathopouli is not the most skilful of fighters, she packs a serious wallop and could give Siobhan a tough night, if she's not on her game," he warns. "It's a 50/50 fight."
Manager Stephen Sharpe sees a pathway to international titles for O'Leary but insists she'll have to be switched on to deliver in five weeks.
"Siobhan has done everything we've asked of her," he says.
"She's fully committed and she hits hard. Fighting in Scotland, she knows she'll have to win decisively if she wants to take the next step, which could be an Irish national title fight against Elaine Greenan."
"My focus remains firmly on the fight in front of me, walking through this girl, becoming 4 and 0," states Siobhan.
"We can move on from there then."
"I love the challenge," she adds. "I love the pressure. It focuses my mind. I box very differently now. It's more about breaking my opponent down now."