by Paul Topliff
Sometimes it's an unfortunate fact of life in the sporting world that an athlete has a sharp rise in their progress or success, hits a peak, then experiences an equally sharp decline soon after. To use a rather weary cliché: a one hit wonder. It's extremely rare to witness a true one hit wonder though, as more often than not, it's a label unfairly attached to mountains of hard work and toil that are ignored in favour of media sensationalism to flog a rag. For whatever reason though, and there are many, it's a fact that due to depression, mismanagement, lack of leadership, being with the wrong crowd etc, many athletes at best plateau, and at worst seem to stagnate or even disappear never to return, when it could have been oh so very different for them had they maintained that desire and focus and strive for the next level.
Over the past six months I have gotten to know Sandy fairly well. I've spoken with her most days via social media links or over the phone, and had the pleasure of meeting with her on a few occasions now. It soon becomes apparent that she's nobody's fool, despite her exceedingly pleasant and friendly, almost deceptively naive demeanor. I've said it before, she's sharp as pin and tough as a suspension bridge bolt. You only have to watch her train to quickly realise that she has that special metal about her; that selfish mean streak that will never settle for second best. To say she's nuts to train so hard would be insulting quite frankly. No, she's extreme, I think that's the word. Starting out as a footballer as a junior, moving through the ranks to youth level, she quickly stepped it up to become a player with quite a formidable reputation, and played as a trophy winner in various positions including Goalkeeper, Centre Back, Midfielder and indeed prolific Striker. That in itself illustrates early qualities of leadership to me, to have the combined confidence and skill to take on anything asked of her and do well. In moving across from football to boxing though, portrays something very different. It shows that she not only does well when asked to take on things that are asked of her, but also to do well when making her own decisions too. Indeed it's that self belief and courageous determination that has seen Sandy build a cabinet bulging at the seems with trophies and coveted awards. You'll not find a more popular, and loved and loyal person anywhere I shouldn't wonder, but in saying all of that, she's also a very humble modest person in many ways who would rather quietly go about her business to see the job through.
The one thing you won’t see with our girl though is any let-up. There are too many well oiled parts to her machine for that to be allowed. Sandy has completely ensconced herself with her very own Team Ryan in the form of Team GB and Team England. Her work colleagues and associates. Then there are the fans and media who have been there encouraging and urging her on. The family and personal friends who have always been there. The sponsors and partners who enthusiastically lend their support. Derby County Ladies Football Club who believed in her enough to invite her to become their Honorary President, and last but probably most encouraging of all, the personal Strength and Conditioning Coach Kirk Gibbons of KFG Fitness and Clifton Mitchell of the coveted One Nation Boxing Gym; both situated in Derby, who have always given her so much by way of training and personal mentoring. I think you will agree that’s quite a set-up. I mean who in their right mind would fail to train their 100% best at all times with that lot surrounding you? Well some seem to, as alluded to earlier, We see it in football for example all of the time, especially, more noticeably, at the highest levels, with players commanding astronomical transfer fees, only to disappear to other clubs on a free transfer several years on due to a serious and unaccountable loss of form. Then we discover years later that the reason behind their flop was all to do with their lifestyle away from the pitch. You will not see that happen in Sandy’s case. There will always be too much at stake for failure to even be whispered, and even if she did fail to impress on a very odd occasion, as we all do at times, the mindset of boxing at large will always be there to inspire and constantly remind each other of the way forward, and how to keep up the good fight. It’s what real boxing is all about. Some see it as people beating on each other. God how shallow. The sport of boxing is an expression of fair play. Of how to overcome fear. How to maneuver yourself into a position of strength and safety best you can, in the face of adversity when the going gets toughest. It’s all about making yourself into a better person every day of your life, and inspiring others to want to do the same. So when that input is rewarded and acknowledged from the greatest gold medal to the delight and admiration of a child’s eyes, the immense degree of satisfaction and pride experienced spreads itself and reverberates throughout not only a community, but throughout a nation. We see in the case of multi world champion Katie Taylor, how the entire face of women’s boxing is being changed before our very eyes, so much so that she is teaching male world champions like Anthony Joshua stuff that he never considered himself by his own admission. Sandy Ryan let me tell you is exactly that same person. Same attitude, same demeanor, same fighting styles, same ambition and dedication, same upbringing in many ways. Same skill sets. Same more or less everything. Just two and a half years ago Taylor came 3rd in her last tournament as an amateur boxer, and since turning professional has literally torn-up the training manual up to stun the boxing world and become not only a legend of the amateur ranks but also a living legend within the professional ranks.
Sandy has all the attributes needed to make it to the very top. So much so that I firmly believe that she will be world champion in the professional as well as amateur ranks. She has got the press talking about her worldwide, not just in Derby. It seems that hardly a single week goes by without something happening in the press of some description, whether it be tv, radio, news articles or blogs reporting on Sandy’s progress. Just this last week Sandy was talked about during the commentary of the humongous world championship unification of three belts between Katie Taylor and Rose Volante in Philadelphia. She also represented Derby County Ladies as President at the 2019 Schools Tournament, and again was mentioned on BBC television in another news story. I dread to think what will happen when the momentum picks up again following her prolonged Achilles injury picked up over Christmas. Sandy has tournament options from June all being well, providing she gets the all clear. Should she take part though, I’m not expecting too much, as she has only literally recommenced her boxing training just this week. It will take time to get back to anything like full fight fitness, but who knows what’s around the corner from June? One thing’s for sure though, the real prize is set for October when she fights for the World Championship Welterweight crown, and she certainly has both eyes firmly focused on bringing that one back to Derby.