Shannon Ryan bidding to inspire next generation ahead of title fight

From the shop floor to the boxing ring, Shannon Ryan is on a mission to inspire the next generation as she prepares for a British and Commonwealth title fight.

It is just two years since Ryan swapped the shop floor of O2’s Watford store for the canvas of professional boxing, but the 27-year-old has quickly notched seven straight victories and has just announced her sponsorship renewal with O2 for a further two years.

Her undefeated record will be on the line again in June as she takes on Emma Dolan for the British and Commonwealth super flyweight titles, and Ryan knows these will further raise her rapidly growing reputation as one of the country’s most exciting boxers.

That is exactly what she wants as she looks to spread her message of pursuing your passion, no matter the setbacks.

“I want to be an advocate for the younger generation. Not just girls, not just boys but men and women,” said Ryan, who has a rich history in sport. From kickboxing at eight to later being recognised as the best in the world in her weight class, she went on to win multiple international tournaments, before going on to represent Great Britain in Taekwondo.

“I want to be a voice to say don’t forget to do what you love. Time is going so quick, which everyone starts to realise as they get older, but people are forgetting to find their purpose and be happy.

“I want to be that voice that can spread it in the community to keep going for your dreams.”

Ryan speaks with experience, having taken the scenic route to where she is now. A love of fighting was clear as early as the age of five, with her dad’s kickboxing gym in Bushey as the initial outlet.

She switched to taekwondo in order to chase a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics but returned home after nine months in Manchester that were curtailed by injury and found boxing.

With no immediate way of being professional, Ryan combined training with a regular job at an O2 retail store, where she discovered the demands of chasing her dreams as an amateur athlete.

“I would never say I’ve had it easy. If people are looking from the outside, they may think it is but for me, it hasn’t been easy,” she added.

“It’s been hard, but I’ve pushed through. I did my 9-5 and then did my 6-10 which was the passion I loved to do.

“I would shut the shop and then go straight to the gym, missing a vital meal that would help me sustain myself during the training session. I absolutely loved the job, but I needed to find a way out in order to do what I love.

“It was my first ever job that I’d had, and I am very grateful for my team at the O2 store who supported my dreams of becoming a professional boxer. If I needed to swap shifts for training purposes, the whole team were fantastic.

“The rest and recovery were not quite there, and the scheduled meals were not quite there. Now that I am a professional, I see such a difference.

“It is a crazy journey. If someone was to look at my career and see where I am now, I think it is incredible. I’m proud of myself, I am proud of the support that I’ve received.

“I always said I wasn’t destined to be a boxer because of how my journey has gone but now I say I was always destined to be a boxer, I just had to go through all that I have to be the boxer that I am today.”

Her professional status is in part thanks to her former employer, O2, who offered to sponsor Ryan when her professional license got accepted in 2022.

They are not the only ones with an eye for talent, with fellow Watford boxer Anthony Joshua’s 258 management company and promoter Boxxer also getting on board to support, before Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing signed her to their world-class roster.

It means Ryan can prepare for her fights exactly as required without needing to swap shifts or miss meals.

“It is a full circle moment, but it was hard working plus training,” she reflected. “To now be partnered with O2 as a professional, it has been a vital component to my career.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have improved as quickly as I have or moved through the ranks as quickly as I have. Now I am able to train twice a day and get that rest and recovery thanks to O2.”

All the blocks are therefore in place for Ryan’s bout with Dolan on 22 June, with the 27-year-old able to dedicate extra time to studying her opponent, rather than falling asleep in front of clips after a full day’s work.

The professional world is one that has suited her so far and Ryan hopes the fight is just another stepping stone to greater heights, where she will continue to tell her story of her long road to the top.

“Every fight is a new experience and every fight you learn more about yourself as an athlete and as an individual,” added Ryan, who does lots in her community encouraging young girls to participate in sport/boxing as well as helping out with O2 databank.

“I do believe I can become undisputed champion in the super flyweight division, and then either move down or move up to become a two-weight world champion. I fully believe I can do that.

“It is scary, but it is also exciting, and they go hand in hand. It’s scary in the sense of when you have that world title, all eyes are on you. You’ve got that title; the aim is to keep it.

“It’s also exciting because your voice holds more power, meaning you can dictate a little more what you want to do, both inside and outside of boxing.”

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