'I wish I’d taken up boxing 40 years ago' says Leeds grandma after debut fight

Leeds boxing novice Patricia Furness made a knockout first impression as she made her fighting debut - at the age of 59.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 6:00 am
Leeds grandmother Patricia Furness, left, in the ring with Macey Newberry. Picture by Julian Hudson

The full-time carer and grandmother from Morley got in the ring with an opponent 41 years her junior to raise vital funds for Leeds-based mental health charity Men in Needs Together (MINT).

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After three rounds of non-stop action, Patricia narrowly lost on points but has vowed to fight again.

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Patricia Furness, 59, is a full-time carer. Picture by Julian Hudson

She said: "I got hit for the first time and thought 'wow', but that made me think 'you don’t know who you’re dealing with'."

And although she did not win last month's bout, Patricia was taken aback to have spectators queuing up to congratulate her for taking part in the "fight of the night".

She also caught the eye of professional bare knuckle boxing star Smudger Smith, who told her that he was “astounded by her courage, tenacity, heart and soul".

Since then, Patricia has been stopped while out running and shopping by people impressed with her efforts.

Patricia Furness with bare knuckle boxer Smudger Smith. Picture by Julian Hudson

There has been plenty of praise for her online too as a video of the fight has gathered hundreds of views, likes and shares at the same time as impressing several professional boxers.

Patricia, who climbed through the ropes with just eight weeks of training under her belt, says she is now in love with the sport - so much so that she asked for a pair of boxing gloves for Mother's Day.

“I wish I’d taken up boxing 40 years ago - I just love it,” said.

The decision to take part in the fundraising fight followed a family tragedy just before Christmas last year. It was then that Patricia's cousin took his own life following a battle with depression.

Patricia Furness lands a punch in her fight against Macey Newberry. Picture by Julian Hudson

Donations received at the 61-year-old’s funeral were given to MINT to support its work in the city.

Patricia said: “MINT is one of the best things going for men. Too many are taking their own life. The more they can talk, the better.”

The event she participated in raised hundreds of pounds for the charity, whose campaign #DontManUpSpeakUp encourages men with depression to share their problems.

Patricia Furness, left, in the ring with Macey Newberry. Picture by Julian Hudson

Overwhelmed by the positive response that she has received from the boxing community, Patricia is now keen to prove that anyone can get the gloves on.

Sharing advice for those considering it, she said: "Go for it! You have to work hard and listen. Go in there and enjoy it. Give it all you got!

"Walking into a sweaty gym full of big tattooed blokes, you feel like turning back out the door but they are actually the loveliest people you’ve ever met. Never go off the way someone looks."

Her experience has also left her with a firm belief that more women should get involved in contact sports.

“Women are tough," she said. "Less of the selfies and silly diets, more boxing and rugby!”

And as she trains for her next fight, with her 60th birthday approaching, she has a message for others contemplating taken on a new challenge.

Macey Newberry and Patricia Furness, right, in the ring with the referee as the winner is declared. Picture by Julian Hudson

“I would tell anyone that age doesn’t matter," she said. "Life’s very short, so go out and do it. I’m so glad I did."

Adrenaline junkie

Patricia is no stranger to pushing her limits. After achieving great success running in her younger years, she later turned to more extreme adventures.

Doctors told the full-contact rugby league player that she would never play sport again after breaking her ankle in a rugby match at age 50. However, the tough Leeds

Rhinos fan defied medical opinion by not only returning to rugby, but winning four trophies in her first season back.

The grandmother-of-six has also completed the famous Three Peaks Challenge with her Brighouse Rangers teammates. There, she was one of only three ladies to manage

to climb the three tallest mountains in Britain in under 24 hours.

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From left, coach Craig Wood, Macey Newberry, referee Joe Ford, Patricia's eldest son Philip, Patricia Furness, and Patricia's son David. Picture by Julian Hudson