The 1997 WIBF Champion—Deirdre Gogarty—is training for a comeback fight. Details of her first bout are unconfirmed, but her ultimate goal is a rematch with former champion, Christy Martin. Curious about Gogarty’s fitness, I visit the gym.
It’s 92 degrees in South Louisiana, and the salty smell of sweat permeates the Ragin’ Cajun Boxing Club. Gogarty slips on her boxing boots, then wraps and duct tapes her hands. She stretches and bounces on her toes to radio Hip Hop and R&B, which blares from large speakers that drown out the whir of a mammoth fan.
Two male heavyweights take to the ring and a three-minute bell adds to the soundtrack of fists pounding flesh. Other fighters begin to roll in, and the gym’s energy rises with shouts of “You just lost that round!” and “Pick it up!”
While Deirdre shadowboxes, I ask light heavyweight Anthony Russell if he’s nervous about his upcoming NABO title fight in Chicago. “I’m comin’ home with that belt,” he says, and strolls off to wrap hands.
Gogarty finishes her warm-up and spars with 15-year-old Brandon Schoeffler, the only boxer in the gym close to her size. In the first, she knocks down her teammate with a left hook to the body.
Sopping wet after three rounds with Brandon, Deirdre hits the floor to crunch abs, medicine-ball style. She hops up to work mitts and tells me she’s tired and sore after an earlier spar with power-hitter Chad Trahan, an agile middleweight who recently turned pro and won his first four fights—three by knockout in the first round.
I wonder out loud if she should rest instead of working mitts. But Deirdre sets me straight. “It’s a thin line between listening to your body and not pushing hard enough,” she says. “You have to work through everything.”
Her coach, former heavyweight Beau Williford, gloves up Gogarty. Her fists hit the hand pads held by Anthony Russell who is 6’3. Deirdre is 5’6. I watch with longtime contender Jason Papillion, who has known the champ since she first landed in the United States from Ireland, yearning to fight.
“We’ve been there for each other,” says Papillion. “And I love to be around her. She’s a hard worker—she’ll make you work. She’s the only girl, and she pushes all of us. No one wants to be outworked by a girl.”
As Gogarty and Russell wind down, Beau shouts: “Don’t stop!” So Deirdre jogs in place and hits the pads in a flurry—bam-bam-bam—again and again. She finally drops her arms, and the gym is quiet. The last male fighter drives away. But Deirdre runs sprints in the parking lot.
The woman who went the distance with Christy Martin in a legendary battle at the MGM Grand in Vegas still hungers to fight. And I believe a rematch between the two former champions would be the perfect overture to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where female boxers will be allowed to compete for the first time.