Lee Murtagh’s Boxing Diary – Fighting for the Wrong Reasons

A lot of potential boxers come through Bethlehem’s or any other boxing clubs doors to experience what they perceive as the glamour of it all. Anybody who has been around boxing for a while will recognise the type.

They’ll go through the motions in training, stopping every two minutes to drink some water, flex their muscles in the mirror, take a selfie once they’ve worked a sweat up and post it on Facebook. They’ll pose for the posters, take hours choosing the music they’ll come out to, buy the silky shorts with tassels and of course, the primary reason the ‘All the Gear, No Idea’ brigade show up for; all the girls love a boxer (apart from me).

If you’re thinking of taking up boxing for any of the above reasons, then have a long hard think about it. If you think you can coast through, then without a doubt, you will get found out in the ring. The reality is, long and gruelling training sessions, attention to diet, to the point you become obsessed and begin to worry about trivial things like how a cup of tea will affect your boxing. When I started out just after the Battle of Hastings (well it does seem a long time ago) I wasn’t bothered about the money and the glitz, I just wanted to box to the best of my abilities, now, I know I have my detractors but I achieved everything I wanted to.

If I’m honest most people fall between the two but it’s refreshing when somebody walks through the door and after a few sessions they realise this is for them and basically dedicate their lives to boxing.


At the risk of turning this into the Sophie Varley column, Sophie is one such person and personally, I’m finding her to be inspirational. She never complains, just gets on with it, is always keen to take on new things but also isn’t afraid to do the day in day out slog every boxer should do. Her last fight, her professional début was a thirty seconds demolition of her Latvian opponent.

She was taller than Sophie, with a longer reach, we went through tactics beforehand but when the bell went, Sophie saw an opportunity and went for it, she was on a destruct and destroy mission and she delivered. The first thing she said after the fight was ‘I’m sorry Lee, I just couldn’t help it.’

So that win took Sophie into the pro rankings at number sixty nine and she’s already had a couple of offers but I really think she needs ring time, gain experience and climb her way up the rankings, I don’t doubt she could catapult herself into the top twenty but she’s young enough to learn her craft and still achieve everything she wants to. And while I’m on a roll, the support from her parents John and Angela is amazing, and can’t be underestimated and again, it resonates with me as I had the same kind of support from my own parents.

An old coach of mine Howard Rainey was at the fight. He trained Colin Mc.Millan and Clinton Woods, both became world champions. Howard is often seen in boxing circles as a bit of an eccentric but I have a great deal of respect for him and for me, his opinion is something worth listening to. He pointed out about how Sophie shifted her feet, something he reckoned she had no right to know how to do at such an early stage in her career and finished off with, ‘You’ve got a world champion there Lee.’

Sophie will be making her second pro appearance as the main event on June 19th at Bramley Phoenix Rugby club. She’ll be joined by the ever improving Jodie Wilkinson, who defends the title she won last time out. Marcus Howett, a Crossgates boxer will be making his semi-pro début and I’m hoping to see another Crossgates fighter, Liam Hayes back after a troublesome shoulder injury.

Anyone interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, call me for tickets, Made in Leeds TV are filming the show, so you might even get to see yourself on the telly.



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