TWO local girls will be making history this Friday night, when they step into a boxing ring for their first exhibition fight.

The gutsy pair are Roberta Harper (31) and Janine McNeill (26).

They’ve been training, under the guidance of Churchland’s Golden Gloves Head Coach, Mickey Fleming for the past seven weeks.

The training started as a means of keeping fit, but the girls have caught the boxing bug, and they are keen to progress their skills.

Roberta and Janine aren’t the only girls that have joined the West Bann based club. Nikilee Fleming (23), who is also a mother, has joined the girls for training.

“Mickey is my cousin and I am really into my fitness, so I asked him if he’d take me for a bit of boxing training,” told Roberta.

“Janine actually started training before me and Nikilee. It was a bit daunting when I arrived having to train with all the boys, but to be honest since we started we’ve really been enjoying it.,” added Roberta.

Roberta and Janine will take part in their first exhibition bout this Friday night at the Club’s fight night in the Bushtown Hotel.

“I’ll probably been more nervous walking out in front of the crowd that actually boxing “admitted Janine.

Boxing training isn’t for the faint hearted.

The girls do the same training as the boys - skipping, bag work, sparring, circuits and plenty of core exercises.

Nikilee added:” It’s very hard training. My partner often tells me that I could box eggs, but to be honest I think he would get a shock if he came along and watched for a night. All the boys and the coaches have been really welcoming and made us feel part of things, which always helps. And Mickey doesn’t allow us to slack, he treats us just like he treats the boys. He’s not long in telling us if we’re not training hard enough,” joked Nikilee.

And Club Coach Mickey Fleming, is proud of his new club members: “The girls are all coming through really well. They have the right attitude, they are keen to learn and they train hard, sometimes better than the boys. They are a great example to others.

“Boxing is a sport that is growing amongst women. I think that they are the first girls in the Coleraine area to get into the ring for an exhibition, they are certainly making history for Churchland’s. The girls are all keen to get involved in a competitive bout, but we’ll wait and see how they progress for future shows.”

The Club will be holding fitness/self defence classes at their new base, at the West Bann Community Centre from next Wednesday, April 6. The women only (over 16’s only) classes will take place from 6 to 7.30, and for men from 7.30 to 9. The classes will work on overall fitness and participants don’t have to be interested in boxing to attend. The cost is £4 and places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. For more details contact Mickey on 07821964389.

The Club’s annual fight night will take place this Friday, April 1 in the Bushtown Hotel.

The line up includes:

Exhibitions bouts: Lewis Dickey (Churchland’s) v David Abernout (Scorpion); Ryan Doherty (Churchland’s) v Caolan McAllister (Scorpion) and Roberta Harper and Janine McNeill Competitive fights include: Lewis Napier (Churchland’s) v Oisin McMullan (St John’s, Swatragh); Paddy Toner (Churchland’s) v Josh Diamond (Skerries); Chris Adams (Churchland’s) v Jamie Mailey (Skerries); Kyle Rushe (Churchland’s) v Rory McAllister (St Joseph’s, Derry); Brendan Duncan (Churchland’s) v tba; Jimmy Boyle (Churchland’s) v Pat Stokes (St Joseph’s Derry); Luke Bacon (Churchland’s) v Peter Morrison (Convoy, Donegal); Charlie Boyle (Churchland’s) v Brendan Creggan (St Joseph’s, Derry).

The evening begins at 8pm, admission is £6 for adults and £3 for under 16. Football tops are not permitted in the hotel.

EXCLUSIVE: Nichola Forgrave