Sandy Ryan: From Olympic Heartbreak To World Title
By Jamiu Ogunshe, Lagos
Despite becoming a world champion earlier this year, Sandy Ryan believes the upcoming fight with Jessica McCaskill could be her breakout moment in the sport.
“This is where I can make a massive name for myself.” Said Ryan.
Ryan became WBO welterweight champion in April when she defeated Marie-Pier Houle by unanimous decision.
The 30-year-old will make her first title defence against McCaskill, who is the WBC and WBA champion, on Saturday in Orlando, USA when all three world titles will be up for grabs.
The path to this fight for unified world honours started in 2007 when Ryan followed her brother into a boxing gym.
“I’ve always been sporty and played football, but my brother was a professional fighter and that made me get into boxing. I started when I was 14 and I loved it,” Ryan tells newsmen.
The Derby born fighter is coached by Clifton Mitchell at One Nation Amateur Boxing Club but has been training in Las Vegas before the showdown with McCaskill.
As Ryan speaks about her career, various noises can be heard in the background.
“Can you hear me, OK?” Ryan says.
“I’m currently getting a pedicure. I’ve had bad nails all camp so I’m treating myself.”
There is a sense of excitement in Ryan’s voice as she prepares for the biggest fight of her career. The former Team GB fighter entered the professional ranks only two years ago and is already fighting for a unified championship.
However, her decision to turn professional came earlier than planned as a result of not being able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
A change to the qualification pathway, because of Covid-19 restrictions, left Ryan out of the running to claim a place.
Missing out on the Olympics spelled the end of Ryan’s time as an amateur after winning gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and silver at the 2014 World Championships.
After signing a promotional deal with Matchroom Sport, Ryan made a lightning start in the professional game claiming three victories in less than five months.
But she then suffered a shock defeat by Erica Farias last year and would fight the Argentine again five months later.
“That loss massively set me back. I was thinking my whole career was over, I thought my life was over. Everything came tumbling down,” Ryan says.
“It was quite hard to get over the loss and build my mind together.
What helped me was getting the rematch. Once I did get the win, it was a full weight lifted of my mind.”
From hospital stint to world title triumph
Three weeks before her first world title tilt in just her seventh bout, Ryan rolled her ankle and had a short stint in hospital.
She persevered, however, and claimed the WBO belt with an assured display.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling. In life, sometimes you can’t explain things, it meant so much because I’ve done it all my life, I just put everything into it,” Ryan says.
Ryan is one of seven current British female world champions, and her triumphs in the past 12 months have led to her hometown being ready to offer her its highest honour.
Derby City Council has backed a motion to give her the Freedom of the City. Ryan would be the first woman to receive it.
“I’ve heard they are going to contact me after this fight but I’m going to ask what I can get, what does it even mean?” Ryan said.
“Do I get free coffee, or do I get to park where I want?”
Jonas fight a ‘no-brainer’ – Ryan
Attention now turns to Saturday and Ryan believes a victory over McCaskill will lead to a domestic super-fight with Natasha Jonas – who holds the IBF welterweight title.
Jonas spoke about potentially fighting Ryan before she won the IBF belt in July. The Liverpudlian is also in talks to fight American star Mikaela Mayer.
But Ryan thinks if she wins the WBC and WBA titles against McCaskill, a fight with Jonas should happen.
“I want to become undisputed at this weight and then I want all the big names. Me v Natasha for undisputed is a massive fight,” she said.
“I want the big fights and she only wants the big fights. Me and her is a no brainer.”