LITTLE MISS FURY; Fighter Deirdre belle of the hall.
"Most of the girls dreamed of a ring on their finger," she says. "Me, I just wanted to be in one."
Now boxer Deirdre, 23, is never out of the gym hall in her bid to become Womens' World Featherweight Champion.
At the weekend in Denver the furious fists of this featherweight filly put her challenger on the canvas in less than three minutes and brought her a purse of $2,000.
It's a far cry from these far-off days 12 years ago when schoolgirl Deirdre sat mesmerised in front of her parents' TV watching Sugar Ray Leonard fight Marvin Hagler.
From then on, while her chums dreamed of dating pop stars, Deirdre dreamed of pummelling flesh.
"I loved the movement, the skill, the grace," she recalls. "I felt I had to do it. My friends had pictures of pop stars on their walls. Mine were covered with boxing posters."
Then someone called Barry McGuigan came along to bring glory to Ireland and her dream became more intense than ever.
She left school at 17 and in 1989 moved to Dublin where former British Welterweight champion Pat McCormack took her under his wing.
She now has a record of ten KO's, 12 wins, four defeats and two draws.
Getting there hasn't been easy. Womens' boxing was the butt of boyish sniggers and crude jokes.
Female fisticuffs finally gained respect in March of this year - thanks to Deirdre and opponent Christy Martin.
The girls were on the undercard of the much-hyped Tyson-Bruno re-match in Las Vegas, a bout that gave new meaning to the term disappointing.
By comparison the Gogarty-Martin fight was a revelation. "The fans said it was the best fight of the night, " says Dierdre. "And it gave us the exposure we need as women fighters.
"I lost, but got a lot of respect. After Saturday's result I know things can only get better still.
"My mum and dad thought I was odd wanting to do this, but they've never been anything but supportive. I want the featherweight title for them as much as myself."
In a sense, the 125lb dynamo, who now lives and trains in the deep south state of Louisiana, has been trying to prove herself since childhood.
The family thought it was a passing craze and viewed her interest with amusement.
"I don't know where it all came from - certainly not my dad," says Deirdre, whose father Desmond was a top oral surgeon. "He used to joke: 'Don't come running to me when your mandible gets cracked'.
"I was 16 when I started training at a gym in Drogheda. Mum thought I had a boyfriend there, that it was 'just a phase'.
"I remember my first day there, the sound of all these fellas working out. It stopped the moment I walked in and they stared at me. I thought I'd die.
"But when they saw I was serious they accepted me. I was a rarity but they never made me feel an outsider."
Five years ago her dedication paid off. She beat Anne-Marie Griffin, a 21-fight veteran, to clinch the Irish female lightweight championship.
Pat McCormack gave her introductions which eventually led to contact with Beau Williford, her American trainer.
"I sent him videos of my fighting and I've never looked back.
"I was as lonely as a pup when I first arrived in 1983. Money was tight too. Now I love it. I work as a graphic designer and train 15 to 20 hours a week. It's very strenuous.
"I'd love to earn my living from boxing but I'm only now starting to pull down the big purses."
She has managed to avoid serious injuries, though her first stateside bout left her with a cut eye and five stitches.
"Luckily one of America's best neurosurgeons was doctor that night.
"He stitched me up on a dining room table and did a great job. I hardly have a scar."
After knocking out Jessica Breitfelder on Saturday she is itching for a re-match with Martin.
"I know I can beat her this time," she says.
She is courting Richard Haynes, a Louisiana State Trooper, but Deirdre insists there's room for only one ring in her life - and not on her third finger, left hand.
"Wedding bells one day," she says. "But first I want the bell that rings when I'm female champion. That's the best bell of all."
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jul 17, 1996|
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