Boxer Cathy McAlee thrilled with portrait by Belfast artist
The sport of boxing can be brutal, but it can also be a wonderful work of art.
Boxer Cathy McAleer took delivery of a unique gift from Belfast artist Sean McHugh, who was so impressed with the 41-year-old that he begged to be able to paint her portrait.
"I thought Sean was joking when I heard he had asked if he could paint me," said Cathy, who was given the artwork last Saturday night.
Sean has an impressive portfolio of sporting stars, with paintings of road racing legend Joey Dunlop and, more recently, Irish rugby captain Rory Best.
"I was stunned when he asked me, and even more stunned when I saw the finished portrait," said Belfast woman Cathy, who runs her Mac Fit personal training service alongside her professional boxing career.
"He had noticed some social media posts by my sponsor, Piccola Parma cafe on the Woodstock Road, and asked through them if he could meet me.
"I met him and gave him a few photographs to choose from. He said he'd see me in four to six weeks. And here we are! It's unreal.
"I don't think I was expecting it to be so big. I'm a bit astonished to be looking at myself."
Having got over the shock of seeing herself immortalised on canvas, Cathy (left) said her portrait is now likely to find a new home hanging on the wall of the boxing club where she trains under John Breen in west Belfast.
"I'd love to put it up in my living room, but it might be a little too large for the wall," she said.
"Hopefully I can use it to inspire a few more of the young girls to aspire to turning professional and make a real success of their careers. There is some real amateur talents in Northern Ireland and in a few years time maybe they can become a subject artists are looking to paint."
The unveiling last Saturday was a bright ending for what has been a nightmare few weeks for Cathy, who competes in the bantamweight division.
"I've has a couple of fights cancelled at the last minute," she said.
"I was supposed to be fighting for a Commonwealth title but it didn't happen and it's been a frustrating time.
"I gave up my summer holidays to get ready for the fights but they just didn't happen, though getting this portrait as a gift has certainly boosted my spirits.
"It really is a wonderful thing to have."
Cathy already holds world titles in three different sports, two in karate and one in kick-boxing, and has a fourth in boxing as her main target.
She added: "I'll keep training and the next title fight, maybe at a higher weight division, will be just around the corner."