Eireann Nugent was always destined to become a boxer.
Her granddad Gerry Nugent, affectionately known as Nugget, has trained many champions at Immaculata ABC while her father dabbled in the professional ranks.
Eireann first set foot in the ring at her grandad’s club when she was 13 years old.
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The West Belfast fighter drifted away from the sport but after an 11 year absence Nugent has returned to the ring, inspired to make a comeback by watching old sparring partner Kellie Harrington win a gold medal for Ireland at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Nugent’s decision to return to the noble art has been fully vindicated after she was selected to represent Team NI at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“My grandad is an amazing coach and he has created some champions throughout his days, and I’m glad to be back in the club doing what I love doing and making him proud,” Nugent said.
“Grandad would have coached the likes of Martin Lindsay who won Ulster and Irish senior titles and the British Featherweight title as a professional, Kevin O’Hara (won three Ulster senior titles), Marty Rogan and the list goes on really.”
Rogan won the first ever Prizefighter, held the Commonwealth title and lost a fight for the Irish title against current world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
“My daddy Ciaran Healy used to box in the Immaculata and then he turned professional at 29 years old and he fought some cracking boxers,” Nugent said.
“Fighters like Andy Lee (former WBO World middleweight champion) and James DeGale (former Olympic gold medalist), and he won a Celtic title as well.”
Nugent had just become a teenager when set first walked into Nugget’s gym.
“I started boxing whenever I was 13 years old just to get me off the streets and keep me on the straight and narrow,” she said.
“When I turned 18 I kind of drifted away from the sport. Life just got in the way with work and stuff like that but I’m older, wiser and hungrier now and I’m back with a vengeance.”
However, before fighting in the ring Nugent had a battle to be accepted into the sport as female boxing wasn’t as popular 17 years ago.
“Even my grandad didn’t let girls into the club, then me and Nicole Meli were the first two females to be welcomed into the Immaculata, so we made history in our own club,” she explained.
“I was always tough enough getting into the ring, even in the Immaculata it just wasn’t the girls with the girls, we’d get thrown in in with the boys so it toughened us up.”
Before taking her hiatus from boxing Nugent was mixing it will top class opposition.
“I’ve shared the ring with Carly McNaul (silver medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games) and Kellie Harrington,” she said.
“Michaela Walsh and I were on the High Performance team together, so watching all those girls go on, excel and win medals at that high of a level did inspire me to come back and realize that I’m not too old and if you really want it go for it because life is too short.”
Nugent needed to get back in the ring for various reasons.
“A big part of coming back was for my mental health, walking away from the sport I piled on a lot of weight and I started to get a bit down and self-conscious,” she said.
“My friend was also diagnosed with cancer and was fighting for her life. So in a way I’m just coming back and fighting for my life grabbing it with both hands and just chasing my dreams.
“To medal in Birmingham would be a dream come true. I’m already so proud of being selected for the team after 11 years out.
“I’m improving every single day and I’m accepting all the challenges that are coming my way and every day is a learning day and I’m only going to get better and better.”
Not only had Nugent to contend with making a comeback at 30 years old, she also had to step up a weight to make the plane for Birmingham.
“When I came back, I entered the Ulster Seniors and won the Ulster Elites at 66kg. That weight was dropped for the Commonwealth Games so I accepted the challenge and went for the 70kg.
“There was no point working this hard not to get picked for the team.”
Nugent would encourage any female wanting to take up boxing to get in the ring.
“I would highly recommend it just not only for self-defense but for self-confidence as well,” she added.
“It really is a great sport to be in because it really does help your mental health, it keeps you physically, mentally and emotionally strong.”
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