STARTING secondary school is a time when we all have to grin and bear it, and hope we soon get used to our new environment, but for Shelly it was unbearable.

The group of girls who bullied her made her so angry that she moved school and decided to try a new sport.

She went to Harrow Amateur Boxing Club with her uncle Russell Sweeney, who is a coach there, to have a trial session.

Shelly, now 14 and a pupil at Harrow High School, said: “I loved it – it was great. It has really taught me how to deal with my anger.

“Since my first lesson I have spent loads of time dedicating myself to boxing.”

Shelly, of Hitchin Lane, Stanmore, is trained by four coaches at the club, based at Harrow Leisure Centre, in Christchurch Avenue, Wealdstone.

FIGHTER: Shelly Sweeney
 

She has won every one of her matches so far – six – since taking up the sport and is aiming to take her talent to the biggest sporting stage and to represent London and Great Britain.

She said: “My aim is to get to the Olympics one day.

“I love training and competing in matches.

“I have gained a lot of respect at my new school and the teachers show an interest in it.

“I also like being fit.”

Luckily for Shelly she has never been hurt badly in either training or fights but her stepfather and coach, Chris Bracewell, 37, is always on the alert during bouts.

“She is really good, so I don’t worry too much,” he said. “She’s tough, and some of the boys at the club won’t get in a ring with her.

“I am so proud of her. She has done so well –winning every match she has taken part in is just great.

“Me and her mum are really encouraging, although we obviously get a bit nervous at times.”

Shelly was recently crowned the Amateur Boxing Association of England National Schoolgirl Champion in the 56kg weight category.

Representing Harrow and District, she is the club’s first licensed female boxer and stopped opponent Lily Devlin in the second round of their championship final to clinch the title in Brentwood, Essex, on December 14.

Shelly said: “Before a match I do get nervous, but it’s mainly excitement. The nerves can give you a boost though.

“I am hoping to go to Sweden in May for a match. That will be my next one.”

Recently Shelly was sparring in the ring with a 26-year-old man.

“I wanted him to give me a proper hit, so I asked him to, and he did.

“It sort of hurt but I was fine,” she said.

“I ask the boys and men to treat me as normal in the ring, not as a schoolgirl.”

Her stepfather added: “A lot of the guys come into the club and see
a blonde 14-year-old girl and think ‘Yeah, right!’ but when she starts boxing with them, they are shocked and think differently.”

? Harrow Amateur Boxing Club hosts training sessions on Wednesdays and Sundays. Anyone over the age of nine is welcome to go along. For more information, go to the club’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HarrowABC