Belfast Telegraph

Joanne Salley's "Hit List" has got her back in the ring

Former Miss Northern Ireland turned boxing beauty has also planned 2,650 mile cycle ride after charity boxing match.

BY Ali Gordon

Inspired by a list she made in primary school, knockout beauty Joanne Salley is returning to the ring for a charity boxing fight.

And with only six days left until her second bout, the former Miss Northern Ireland is already planning her next gruelling challenge.

“I remember being eight-years-old and I wrote this list of 10 things I wanted to do before I was 10,” said the 37-year-old teacher, model and TV presenter.

“At that age, it was things like kiss a boy for the first time and dive off the board at Dungannon swimming pool.

“Then when I was 15, I did 20 things to do before I’m 20 and I’ve just continued to do that. Now, here I am, boxing and looking up how I can cycle the length of Chile in January.”

Joanne is almost four months into an exhausting training regime and is hoping that her hard work is rewarded with £10,000 sponsorship money for The Gordon Ramsay Foundation and Cancer Research UK at the Boodles Boxing Ball.

Speaking to Sunday Life at Belfast’s Europa Hotel, Joanne said: “I have a lot of things still left to do on my list of things to do before I’m 40 but it gives me something to work for.

“The problem comes if God spares me until my eighties!

“But I love stepping outside of my comfort zone — it’s what excites me and makes me feel alive and this upcoming fight will be a real challenge.”

The money Joanne raises will be used to help fund research into neuroblastoma, a condition that affects around 100 children each year in the UK.

The cause of neuroblastoma is unknown but the rare cancer usually affects children under the age of five and can even occur before a child is born.

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“I went to see the centre where the money I’m raising goes to and I could see how hard working the charity is and what a difference they have already made to people’s lives,” said the former schoolteacher.

“There are a huge number of cases of neuroblastoma in young children in the UK and anything that can be done to prolong or save a child’s life should be done.

“Everyone has someone in their family or friendship circle who has been affected by cancer — it’s a monster.

“I’ve met some of the children that this money will help and while it broke my heart it also inspired me to work harder because I could see how much these children need that money.”

The London-based model and artist is also taking inspiration from Northern Ireland’s world champion boxer Carl Frampton. “He is a complete legend,” said Joanne who trained with Carl’s coach Shane McGuigan last year.

“Shane was amazing and the training sessions were invaluable, I learnt so much from him.

“He really is world class and his father Barry was a world class boxer. They are inspirational and a real credit to Northern Ireland.”

Like Carl, Joanne has had to take her fair share of punches but the Dungannon-born stunner takes every hit in her stride. Her first fight last year left her with a fractured foot, a black eye and whiplash and just a few weeks ago she was punched so hard she saw stars.

She said: “The first time I got properly hit was sparring in Barcelona a few years ago. My friend was with me and she was amazingly strong and a great boxer but she cried when she got hit whereas I thrived off it.

“I’ve never had a fear of getting hurt in anything I’ve done — I just throw myself into things. I think if you worry about something so much then quite often you bring the fear upon yourself.

“If you don’t believe in yourself then you’ve failed at the first hurdle.

“In boxing, there’s a real winning mentality but that also comes from the fact you have to train hard to keep yourself safe in the ring.

“If you don’t train when you’re running or cycling you just do a slower time or don’t perform as well as you’d like, but stepping into the ring unprepared can have serious consequences.”

Last time Joanne fought she was narrowly beaten by Amber-Jean Hornsby but she is hoping the experience will stand her in good stead when she fights Danielle Raper on September 12 in The Great Room at Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

“It’s really well matched and I’ve been very disciplined leading up to it,” said Joanne whose body fat is currently a remarkably low four per cent.

“I have sacrificed a social life, I’m in bed early every night, I don’t drink alcohol and my diet is all very high protein, low carbohydrate and as sugar free as I can keep it. But I am partial to a chocolate bar — nothing fancy, just give me a Galaxy.

“Then once the boxing is over and done with, I’m planning to cycle the length of Chile for charity in January because it’s the longest country in the world.

“It’s 2,653 miles long and the terrain changes so much. It’s bitterly cold in the south and up near Peru at the top so very warm.

“The worst case scenario is that it will take me two-and-a-half months and the best is that I’ll do it in 40 days so obviously I’m aiming for that.

“I’ve never been someone one to just stick to one thing forever, I’m always trying new things and setting myself new goals.

“I firmly believe that if you want something enough there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go out there and try to grasp it.”

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