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Life as trainee doctor is ideal foil for new national boxing champion

Mary MacGillivray lands Scottish title after two fights - and juggles the sport with studies and working in hospitals.

New Scottish female 60kg Elite Development champion Mary MacGillivray with Inverness City ABC head coach Laurie Redfern.
New Scottish female 60kg Elite Development champion Mary MacGillivray with Inverness City ABC head coach Laurie Redfern.

Trainee doctor Mary McGillivray’s passion for boxing led to her becoming a Scottish champion.

The 33-year-old, who is in her fifth and final year of learning her profession in medicine, recently stormed to the Scottish Elite Development A Lightweight title.

In only her second bout, under the guidance of Inverness City ABC head coach Laurie Redfern, she secured the national female elite 60kg crown at Boxing Scotland’s National High Performance Centre in Glasgow.

She won in sensational fashion, stopping Livingston’s Amelie Levary in the first round after three standing counts.

Nine new champions were created that weekend, with more than 700 fighters entering the previous month’s Development Championships in Motherwell.

Those delayed one v one title showdowns set up by Boxing Scotland ensured all boxers who entered got their chance of success.

Boxing keeps you ‘mentally strong’

Mary, whose work has meant she’s shaped up as a boxer this year at Dundee’s St Francis Boxing Club and Caithness Boxing Club as well as Inverness City ABC, admits the notion of being a boxing doctor raises eyebrows.

However, she explained that in fact one complements the other.

She said: “I have had a few funny expressions from people when I say I box and also train to be a doctor. They say ‘that’s a contradiction, isn’t it?’

“It probably is, but I don’t share it with too many people here in the hospital.

“As a sport, I do love boxing. It is good to channel (your energy), focus and keeps you mentally strong, which you need when you work in the hospital in any case.

“I find being a doctor helps with the boxing, while the boxing helps me in my work in the hospital and my studies.

“If I go a few weeks without boxing, I feel the effects of it – I was really missing it.  There was something missing.

“I don’t know whether I could do boxing full-time. I don’t think so, I feel like I need them both.”

Mary MacGillivray, the Scottish lightweight (60kg) Elite Development champion. Image: Laurie Redfern

‘I didn’t expect to get into boxing’

And the decision to head to the Merkinch club after a day on her feet in hospital always proves to be worthwhile as her potential became clear to Redfern.

She said: “I started training at Laurie’s club at the end of last year.

“I was on placement at Raigmore Hospital at the time and tried to go along as consistently as I could. Even when tired, you drag yourself along, but it was well worth it because the training there was really intense, relentless, but it always made me feel really good afterwards.

“I trained hard from last November until my placement finished in May.

“Initially, I was just going along to the club to train. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, then Laurie mentioned about getting carded.

“We had a few fights lined up for April, but they never happened for one reason or another, such as can happen.

“I honestly don’t know what the future holds. I didn’t expect to get into boxing.

“It was not something I was exposed to, growing up.”

Farming, fiddling and piping roots

Boxing is far removed from how Mary was brought up, stemming from a family with other artistic skills.

She added: “My background is in piping, Highland dancing and farming.

“I don’t know why, but I just felt I really wanted to try boxing. I thought it might be fun.

“People might think I have come into the sport late and perhaps I have, but I do feel it’s never too late to try something.

“I don’t know whether I would have managed or done so well if I was younger. I don’t know if I’d have been as confident back then. Sometimes you maybe come to things when you’re supposed to.

“I am from a musician and farming family. My dad is a bagpiper (formerly with the Battlefield Band) and farmer and all my brothers play the bagpipes as well. They are involved in farming and one still works on the farm.

“It’s certainly quite different to boxing. They are all on board and happy with it.

“I play the fiddle, not the pipes. I play with my dad and brother every so often.

“Also, I have a wee sister who is very musical. She is a gifted Gaelic singer – she is a rising star in her own right.

“It is gradually happening for her. She works as a nurse in Dundee, so she also has her day job.”

Inverness City Boxing Club head coach Laurie Redfern. Image: Courtesy of Donald Cameron

‘People were asking who she was’

Meanwhile, Redfern who has now guided 105 boxers to national titles throughout his 45-year coaching career, is sure MacGillivray has some big sporting moments in front of her.

He said: “Mary put in a brilliant performance. She stepped up and got her rewards.

“That was her second bout, having won her first bout at the Drumossie Hotel with a third-round stoppage.

“Mary’s got bags of potential. She was in the gym on Tuesday night and everyone was congratulating her. She spars with my daughter Lorna, who recently had her first professional fight.

“She’s 33, but as a female boxer has plenty of time to progress. Many women’s world champion boxers are in their 30s and 40s, so she’s off to a great start.

“After her performance in Glasgow, I had many people asking who she was – so she made a big impression.

“Because she’s amateur, we can sort out plenty fights next year for her – with the January show at the Drumossie next up.”

The promotional poster for the January 13 North of Scotland v North of England show at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness.

North of Scotland v North of England

And the date for the diary is Saturday, January 13 as the North of Scotland – Inverness City, Fair City (Perth) and Caithness meets the North of England – Barrow, Egremont and Workington.

Redfern cannot wait to have a range of amateur from six proud clubs from either side of the border going toe-to-toe in the Highland capital in the new year.

He said: “This is probably the biggest amateur show I have put on – we’re probably looking at 16 bouts on the night involving six clubs.

“I had a boy come into my club, who was working in Inverness, and he came in just to train one night. He told me he was from Workington and we got chatting about the potential of them coming up here to be part of a show.

“From that, I called their coach and I invited his club up here. He then developed it and managed to get these other clubs from Cumbria to agree to come north.

“I was over the moon and it all came from that boxer coming in to train. It looks like being another brilliant night at the Drumossie.”

For tickets for the Drumossie fight night, call Redfern on 07919 670851.