Harvey: 'Women kick ass!'
Irish boxing, over the last few years, has produced a great number of talented amateurs, many of whom have recently moved into the pro ranks. Lynn Harvey (1-0, 1 KO) is part of that clutch of title winning amateurs - she won the Irish novice and senior championships in 2012, the intermediate in 2013 and the Irish elite seniors in 2014.
It has been a whirlwind career thus far for the Dublin native, who only took up the sport in 2011. “I’d just turned 30. I started a boxercise class, [with] no intention of becoming a boxer or fighting at all,” she told BM recently via telephone. “I saw some people who were sparring, and I asked what they were doing. It was for white collar, a charity thing. I did that and got bashed. I think that made me realise: do I actually want to try and get good at this? And I decided I did.”
It wasn’t just a late start for Harvey, but an introduction to a whole new world. “I’d never been in a boxing club. I didn’t know any boxers, I didn’t follow any. [But] I was fascinated by the sport, if it was on TV I’d watch. But I always did think, out of every [sport], it’s what caught my eye. I had zero connection to boxing when I joined the class. I literally just wanted to get fit and tone up, like most women do.”
It goes without saying that Harvey has shown incredible mental strength to achieve so much so soon. This is certainly something she recognises in herself. “I realised when I started boxing that, it was testing me mentally," she admitted. "It’s mad because, I think my mind is the strongest thing about me. But also, the most fragile thing about me. Physically, I am a hard worker and I love that. I’d much prefer a physical job to sitting in an office.
"Physically [from boxing] I was getting the benefits of feeling fit and strong, and that boosted me. But it was the mental challenge why I loved boxing. I’d struggled with confidence and stuff like that growing up. And it gave me a boost - winning fights and challenging myself. Something I’d never felt before.
"I found something I was good at, something I was tough enough to do…I love that mental test, and how much stronger it’s made me. It’s exercising that strength all the time. You get so many knocks and so many letdowns.”
Harvey also pointed out that her mental strength isn’t just related to her 'in the ring' performance level. “It can make you or break you mentally," she said. "I won't let it break me. It can be the best and worse thing for your mind. It’s up to you to be strong enough to push through it, not just when you are getting hit or overpowered in the ring, but even the outside stuff - like getting rejected, not being let on a show. It’s constantly saying, no, I’m good enough. It’s keeping that focus and keeping that momentum. It’s keeping going. That’s the bigger thing for me.”
Unfortunately, women’s professional boxing still does not generate the interest it deserves, due to a myriad number of reasons. That perhaps has a knock-on effect for participation numbers, as Harvey explained. “The men, there’s loads of stuff happening, loads of people coming through. So there is a buzz. For the women, it’s buzzing more in the amateurs.”
That could be about to change over the coming years, however, as Harvey emphasised. “There’s a lot of young talent coming up. And there are some more seasoned boxers as well.”
Having recently branched out to MMA writing myself, I have been struck how female competitors are given many more opportunities in that sport than in boxing. I asked Harvey for her opinions why.
“I don’t follow UFC, but I know there are some fabulous athletes doing great things," she said. "I think maybe [it's] because that is a newer sport, they aren’t as old fashioned. I think because boxing is so ancient, that it carries some of the ancient sexist ideas with it.
"With the UFC it’s so much more modern, that it has modern ideas that go with it. And that’s that women can kick ass and work just as hard as the men! But good things are happening for pro boxing. Women are going on big bills and getting opportunities they haven’t had before. Hopefully when I am at that level, I’ll be able to get on a big bill like that. Hopefully it’ll be more mainstream by then.”
Despite being only one fight into her paid career, Harvey is aiming to keep up her superb progression, both in the ring and in the rankings. It’s worth pointing out that she also recently took a break from the sport.
“We just want to get some home fights first and get some experience," she told me. "I was only an amateur for three years. I am not a seasoned boxer, I have loads of stuff going for me, but I am still learning basic stuff. It will be stupid hurrying me along and throwing me into big fights. It’s not that these girls are better than me, it’s that experience. I need fights. I need to build confidence and need to move like a pro.
"The thing with women’s boxing is, there aren’t as many of us. So when we have a fight we jump up quicker. I am not saying it’s easier for me to get to a world title level, but it’ll be a little bit quicker. The downfall is there isn’t as many fights as the men get, I won't be able to get as many. I wont have as much experience when I get there. It has its pros and cons.”
Harvey blitzed her Bulgarian opponent, Ivana Yaneva, inside one round on her pro debut late last year. Yet despite it being such a big occasion, she didn’t let the nerves get to her.
“I am very relaxed with it comes to fights. I don’t know why. I feel more nervous with the sparring. I feel more excited. I always pull it out of the bag and stay calm. I can’t say I felt much of a difference [between pro and amateur], it was so quick. The girl, and no disrespect to her, I respect her for coming over, it only lasted less than a minute.
"She didn’t actually get to hit me, so I didn’t actually feel like what it’s like to mix it with a pro. It wasn’t as hard as some of the amateur fights I’ve had because she didn’t lay a glove on me. That’s no disrespect to her. I was just on form and my timing was good.”
Harvey will appear again at the national stadium in Dublin next month, on a major card also featuring the likes of Luke Keeler and Steve Collins Jr.
On this bigger stage, Harvey is expecting a bigger test. “I am hoping now for the second fight, it’ll be much tougher. I am moving up to a six rounder. I know the girl has gone six rounds, she’s lasted six rounds, and she’s fit for six rounds. I am hoping she will be a step up. I am fully confident I’ll win but I hope I have to work for it and that I can sink my teeth into it. Maybe this will be more of a pro experience… I am really appreciative of the promoters, Red Corner promotions.”
The popular ticket seller clearly doesn’t want to hang around, and considering her meteoric rise thus far, it’s hard to bet against her reaching her lofty ambitions. “I am not getting any younger. I don’t want to be hanging around doing four rounders, but that’s up to my manager and coach. I want to get this show on the road. I want to move on as quickly as possible.”