Katelynn Phelan with her three belts won in Germany
And once her mind is made up there is no turning back.
Meet Katelynn Phelan.
A professional boxer for the last few years.
Five professional fights.
And the holder of three belts.
Before that a top class amateur that won everything their was to win at club, province and national level before going on to win a World bronze medal.
Kildare town born and bred, Katelynn attended Scoil Bhride Naofa Primary and Kildare town Community School, Secondary school.
While she comes from a boxing background, her two brothers have both boxed professionally while her dad, Paddy, is well known in boxing circles, he is also one of Katelynn's two coaches, nevertheless he, along with mam Martina; brothers Darren and Allan and sister Lisa Marie, were not anxious to see her enter the ring.
Katelynn, not for the first, or last time, had other ideas.
When just 6 years of age Katelynn would travel to see her siblings training in Ryston BC in Newbridge, along with their dad Paddy but while she was not allowed to participate, she went behind a few backs and with the help of Head Coach in Ryston, Tom McDermott, eventually jumped in and got involved in sparring.
“I am a stubborn sort of person” she told us last week when we spoke “if I'm told not to do something, the chances are that is exactly what I will do.”
Brother Darren, doesn't box anymore, he now lives in Canada while brother Allan has turned professional and himself and Katelynn were the first brother and sister to fight on the same professional bill not too long ago.
Katelynn's home club is St Brigid's BC in Kildare where her dad is the Head Coach, but apart from herself and her brother, no one else is allowed to train due to covid.
“The place is spic and span at the minute; my dad is down there every day cleaning and polishing, awaiting word when all the kids can return.”
Up to 150 kids, from five years of age to adult, use the club which looked like closing permanently just a few months ago.
As Katelynn explains “when I returned home after winning the three belts in Germany, the doors to the gym were locked and it looked like we were more or less out on the street. However a deal was negotiated that saw us remain for a number of months, but we are now on the lookout for a new permanent premises.”
Katelynn had to wait until she was 11 before she could climb between the ropes on a competitive basis but once she reached that age it quickly became evident she was not short of talent as she quickly began winning at club, county and provincial level, before winning her first national title.
That national title bout was in the National Stadium “where every amateur boxer wants to fight” the Kildare native tells us.
That initial title came with a win, a comfortable victory (29-11) against Claire Kiely from Limerick.
“I still have the cert and am very proud of it” she enthuses.
In an illustrious amateur career Katelynn captured no less than ten Kildare titles; ten Leinster titles; ten national titles, and topped it off with a World bronze medal, in India.
That World bronze was back in 2017 and is one this young boxer is very proud and remembers greatly
“India was an incredible experience” she says and while she admits that a lot of the young boxers would not go back there, she herself would definitely return if the chance ever came up.
“I would love to return to India; the culture there was crazy to say the least; from the time we landed we were escorted by army personnel from the airport to our hotel and every time we went to a boxing stadium the soldiers were with us.
“It was though, a very diverse place; a lot of people begging on the streets around where the tournament was held, but once you were inside the place was magnificent, no expense spared, everything top class, from the rings to all the facilities; brilliant.”
Rightly very proud to have taken home a bronze medal, she defeated a United States opponent in the quarter final; but the fact that her name is up there with some great female boxers such as Katie Taylor is something she is extremely proud of.
However, it was soon after that that Katelynn began to lose interest, lose her appetite, not necessarily for boxing per se, but for amateur boxing.
“Hard to put your finger on it exactly to be honest; the same thing every day but I just wasn't enjoying it; I woke up one morning, knew I wasn't enjoying it anymore; things change; people change and really I felt I wasn't in a good place mentally, so I made the change, and am really happy that I did make it.”
Needless to say her mam and dad were not overly keen to see her turn pro and while she knew from her brother Allan, more or less, what turning pro entailed, she (again) went behind a few backs, applied for her pro licence and when confirmation arrived in the post she told her parents “I am now a professional boxer.”
TG4 showed her first pro scrap when she defeated Monika Antonik, followed with a win over Galina Gyumliyska, a tough Bulgarian opponent, at the Neptune Stadium in Cork in front of her family and many friends who travelled south for that fight. Katelynn defeated the Bulgarian with her dad Paddy saying “Katelynn stuck to the game plan; we weren't looking to take her opponent out, we need to get more experience; stay the four rounds and that's what she did.”
Borislava Goranova was her next opponent, a bout in Belfast and another comfortable win.
While her trainers include her dad Paddy and Niall Barrett of Unit 3 Health & Fitness, Naas; Katelynn is assigned with the Boxing Ireland Promotions and managed by Stephen Sharpe.
Asked the main difference between the amateur and professional boxing, she immediately and without hesitation says the training.
“Training intensifies significantly but I love that; the harder the training the better I like it and am aware the more I train the better boxer I will become. I train Monday to Saturday, twice a day and usually three sessions on a Sunday, in Naas, along with up-coming pro, Gary Cully.”
Because Katelynn is a professional boxer now, she receives no grants from the Sports Council; due to her training regime can't sign on the dole so is really relying on family and her sponsors to keep the show on the road.
“In many ways I am extremely fortunate; my family, my boyfriend, the people I have around me, my sponsors are all brilliant but when you realise that I have to actually pay to fight at this level it will give you an idea of how tough it really is.”
A lot of people out there think, and believe, that boxing professionally is a glamorous way of life but at the level Katelynn is at, nothing could be further from the truth as she explains.
Despite what Katie Taylor has achieved for female boxers — and Katelynn admits that that has been immense — overall the support for female boxers is simply not there as you might expect it to be but hopefully she adds “in the next year or two people will realise that females are actually every bit as good as their male counterparts, many even better, but hopefully I can make a new pathway just like what Katie has done and achieved.
Who knows where I will be in a year or two, hopefully it will be a different story than where I am today.
It was back in October when Katelynn, against a lot of advise, went to Germany to take on the experienced local opponent, Jessica Schadko, in Munich and brought off a major shock stopping the home star in the fifth round.
“We took the fight in Germany; everyone was doubting me and telling my team we were crazy and why we were doing this but we did an amount of research; we left no stone unturned for that fight; we went completely dark on social media; none of my previous fights were on Youtube or anything so if my opponent was looking for footage of me there was none available ; all they knew was I had three pro fights; knew little about my amateur career or anything.
“Jessica Schadko had nine pro fights under her belt with eight knockouts which compared to my record you could see why people would say I was crazy to take the fight but we knew everything about her, down to her eye colour.
“We predicted what would happen, including that she would quit on the stool in the fifth or sixth round; and that is what happened, she quit going into the fifth.
“The feeling that day was just brilliant; I was so proud of myself; seeing those three belts — the WBC Youth; the WIBA World and the WBF World — that I collected that day; knowing that all my hard work had paid off; all the time and effort and planning we put into that fight, it was just brilliant.
“It is only the start; only the stepping stone to bigger things.”
Following that brilliant win Katelynn was nominated — one of three — for the RTÉ Young Sportsperson of the Year 2020 and while she did not win that one it was an indication of how far this young lady has travelled in a relatively short space of
No doubt her brilliant family and backroom team, her sponsors who include Unit 3 Health and Fitness , Coyne Research, Infinityrecoveryroom; Darlex Risk Management and O'Donnell Physiotherapy along with her sister Lisa Marie, a qualified nutritionist and personal trainer.
While looking forward to her upcoming fight in Luxembourg on March 20, Katelynn is also very conscious of the place St Brigid's Boxing Club finds itself in at present and really hopes they find a permanent home in the not too distant distance.
“The one thing I love about boxing, is that not only is it a sport but it can practically create your own second family; say if you have problems at home or in school, St Brigid's BC is a safe place for kids to go; if you want to go punch a bit and get your anger out; or even sit in a corner and just look at what's going on; that is what we tell the kids, come in, do what makes you feel good, if you feel it is too hard just let us know; we tailor every-
thing to each individual kid and what they are able to do.
“We have the place and we want young people to come in and work out; make friends; I have seen many friendships being made; you are so proud of them all; you feel they are like your own.”
Hopefully things work out for all at St Brigid's Boxing Club and even more so for Katelynn as she chases her dream between the ropes.
As we said at the beginning this is one determined, committed, strong-willed young lady, we wish her the very best of luck in her next bout and further afield after that.
If hard work, belief and no shortage of skill, are anything to go on, you'll be hearing a lot more of Katelynn Phelan, the local Kildare Town girl who is chasing her dream in the far from glamorous world of female professional boxing.
Last weekend Katelynn returned to the ring in Luxembourg putting up an impressive display against Karina Kopinska, an eight round bout that went the full distance with Katelynn winning every round.
Another stopping stone for this young, determined and impressive boxer.