Cathy McAleer has gone from being a frightened eight year old to a confident and determined fighting machine.
Now 39 - McAleer was taken to her local karate club by her worried parents after being pushed about in her youth and 30 years on she is grateful that her mother and father decided their daughter needed to be toughened up for her own safety.
“I was about eight years old when I got involved in karate because I was really timid and quiet and I had been beaten up at the local park where I lived.
“Then in a paper it said that there was a karate school opening up on the Ormeau Road.
“So my parents signed me up to give me a bit of confidence because I was so quiet and that is how it kicked off.”
And from being a quiet and timid eight year old McAleer quickly moved on to become something slightly different.
“I kept at the karate and went on to win a World title and then my coach said why do you not try full contact kick boxing.
“And then Billy Murray invited me down to Prokick one Saturday afternoon to give it a go .
“So I went down and was put into a ring with Gary Hamilton - who was a World champion at that time - and did some sparring with Gary and some padwork with Billy and at the end of it Billy told me I was welcome to come down and give it a go and see how I got on.
“I stayed and had a few fights and was successful and really enjoyed it.”
But like many others life took over as Cathy started a job at a gym and an injury ruled her out of action for six years before she decided to return.
“I was working loads and I had an eye injury and I was told not to compete anymore .
“I was then the national coach for karate and travelled around the world helping other people get titles.
“It was then I realised that I wanted to fight again.
“Billy phoned me and asked me to spar with Ursela Agnew and I told him I hadn’t been in a ring for six years and that I hadn’t had a pair of gloves in that period of time.
“But he said come down and I was about two stone overweight and I sparred Ursela.
“And Billy said ‘you have still got it, when are you coming back?’
“I told him I am overweight, unfit and he told me to come back, get fit and fight again.
“So I committed to the training and trained every single day. I didn’t miss a day. It was hell on earth losing that weight at my age.
“And I swore I would never get overweight and unfit again because he made me work so hard.
“I kept at it and started fighting again and went on to win a world title at 54kgs.”
But McAleer’s journey does not end there as she got the chance to try professional kick boxing after she was offered a fight in Nice.
“I was offered the fight against Amel Dehby at five days notice and I said I wanted it even though it was against a professional. I wanted to test myself and see what it was like at that level.
“I wanted to see what the game was like at a pro level. I wanted to throw myself in at the deep end - so we did it.
“We flew to Nice and I did three rounds with her and the fight went the distance. I took lots of shots and it was unbelievable the speed and power she had. It was just a different league.
“She had been in Thailand training for two years and she was very good.
“But I got good reports from the commentators and they called me the ‘Irish Warrior.’ She won on points and my shin had opened and it needed stitched at the side of the ring and I had facial bruising.”
But even the Nice experience did not put Cathy off the idea of having more professional fights.
“I thought through the fight and I decided I had to change my diet, my training, get faster and the way I do things. From that fight we got lots of offers but Billy wanted to take it slowly. But now we have a fight against Chiara Vinces in Italy next month who has 18 wins and 11 losses.
“She is a top level pro and I am going to go out and give it a real go and see what happens. I want to see how far I can go.
“I won a world title in kick boxing as an amateur and two world titles at karate and now I have another opportunity to win another world title as a professional,” she added.
That timid and quiet eight year old has well and truly come out fighting.