McNaul feeling transformed after tough 2021

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Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games boxing Silver medallist Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games boxing Silver medallist Carly McNaul of Northern Ireland. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

For Belfast boxer Carly McNaul, 2021 was a fight like no other.

After a broken femur, eye operation and Covid-19 infection her first fight of the year finally came in December.

Her comeback bout saw her win the flyweight crown at the Ulster Elite Championship finals, the first of nine bouts leading up to this summer’s Games in Birmingham.

In total, she spent 21 months away from the ring, a period she feels helped to totally transform her career.

“I’m a completely different boxer,” said the 32-year-old. “I’m no. 5 in the world, most people know who I am.

“I am just looking forward to getting out there and putting on great performances, and letting the world see me win that gold because I’m 10 times the boxer I was in 2018.”

Speaking about her prolonged break, McNaul cannot recall any feelings of isolation. It was merely a time for self-reflection and development.

“I came off social media and nobody knew what I had been doing,” she explained.

“I was just away working on myself. And I came back and when I went into the ring in the Ulster’s, I boxed completely differently.

“Nobody expected me to box the way I did, and I was able to show the world that I’m not a one-trick pony.”

Since then, McNaul has been building towards her second Commonwealth Games, with World Championships framed as a dress rehearsal for the summer.

She said: “I went and beat two Olympians but didn’t know they were Olympians until afterwards when I was being interviewed.

“That gave me great confidence to know that I can compete at that level.”

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, McNaul hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

Now 16 years on from her amateur debut, McNaul claimed that she will only retire once a gold medal at a major event is secured.

If that comes this year, then all the sacrifices will have proved worthwhile.

This summer, Team Northern Ireland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will compromise over 100 athletes, and having secured her place on the squad, McNaul is looking for medal success.

On a personal level, she wishes she could spend more time at home with her 12-year-old son, Jayden, but does confess her relief that he has so far stayed away from boxing.

“It’s so hard being away from him but that gives me more drive to do it for him and to help change our lives,” McNaul said.

“He can see I want to make him proud, and he can learn some great lessons, that if you work hard it will pay off.

“Thank goodness he doesn’t box. But I want to do it for him because I always say, ‘son it will all play off’.

“It hasn’t fully paid off for me but when I have a gold medal in my hand that will be me satisfied."

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