Former Irish model Joanne Salley set to fight at charity boxing match after topless picture scandal
Published 09/09/2015 | 13:04
An Irish woman who was forced to quit her teaching post at a private school in England after a topless photos scandal has reinvented herself as a Christian boxer and is set to spar in a charity fight.
Joanne Salley (39) - crowned Miss Northern Ireland in 1998 - taught at Harrow school for seven years but resigned in 2011 after photos of her showing her breasts were found on a memory stick and circulated by pupils.
A large number of the school’s 825 students saw the pictures, which were also sent to boys at another British school where Salley had previously worked.
The photos had reportedly been taken by Fiona Corthine, a fellow teacher and head of photography, who wanted them for an art project.
The former beauty queen from Dungannon in Tyrone, who is now a mural artist and illustrator, will take to the ring in London's Grosvenor House Hotel on Saturday to raise funds for cancer charities.
Salley's opponent in the 54kg weight category is Danielle Raper.
Salley, also a trained ballet dancer and keen polo player, has been preparing for her fight at London five-star private members club KX Gym.
“One thing I come up against all the time is that I'm 'too pretty' to box, and it's true that women boxing will always divide opinion," she told The Telegraph.
“People look at me and probably think I’m not a stereotypical boxer, but I like to think of myself as the female Ben Fogle.”
Salley explained she was bitten by the boxing bug while a teacher at Harrow Boys School in England, and said that black eyes, a bruised face and whiplash haven't put her off from taking part in charity fights.
"I love boxing so much," she added.
"I even had a look at the age limit for the Olympics but the cut-off point is 40.
"I will be celebrating the big 'four zero' next summer.
"I think it was Walt Disney who said: 'Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional'.”
Miss Salley said she has experienced criticism, particularly from people who do not understand the nature of boxing.
She said: "I'm a Christian and I go to church every week and I've witnessed negative reactions to the sport.
"Some Christians give me funny looks when they hear about what I'm doing but you can be a kind, caring Christian and get in the ring.
"I am a very compassionate person and I'm actually very gentle and caring.
"People are entitled to their own opinions and it's good and important that they voice them.
"But when people act shocked or confused at how I can be praying in church one minute and throwing punches in the ring the next, I just laugh it off."
"Katie Taylor is my heroine," she said.
"I love how skillful and clever women boxers are.
"Watching her and people like Mikaela Mayer coming up is great."
To help Miss Salley reach her £10,000 fundraising target for the Gordon Ramsay Foundation and Cancer Research UK you can visit her Just Giving page.