Former Irish model gets in the ring for charity boxing event
The fighting spirit of the late Oscar Knox is inspiring model and artist Joanne 'Mustang' Salley to give a knockout performance in a charity boxing bout this weekend.
The former Miss Northern Ireland will be getting in the ring at the Boodles Boxing Ball in London's Grosvenor House Hotel on Saturday to raise funds for cancer charities.
Joanne is taking part in the sole female fight on the bill, and her opponent in the 54kg weight category is Danielle Raper.
The 39-year-old from Dungannon told the Belfast Telegraph the money raised will help fund research into neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.
Joanne first became aware of neuroblastoma when five-year-old Mallusk boy Oscar, who sadly died last year, came to public attention through his fundraising and awareness campaign.
"It is a very aggressive form of cancer," she said.
"I first became aware of it because of Oscar Knox from home, so when it came up again I was absolutely on board.
"I am hoping people will help me reach my £10,000 target; I am halfway there, but I know these are hard times so just raising awareness is important too."
London-based Joanne 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'."
Joanne says she is frustrated that a quick search engine check of 'women boxing' throws up a lot of "sexist, glamour-type images" that do not represent the women's sport accurately.
She counts Ireland's European, World and Olympic champion Katie Taylor and US star Mikaela Mayer among her favourite athletes and believes they are inspiring a new generation of female boxers.
"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."
Joanne splits her time between the five-star KX Gym, where she is a sponsored athlete, and the Fitzroy Lodge Amateur Boxing Club, which she describes as "spit and sawdust."
"It's a lovely contrast for training," she said.
"I know it is such a cliché about beauty queens thinking they can save the world, but I do two charity events every year to raise money for good causes and have done since I was 21.
"I am going to cycle the length of Chile next, so will pick a charity to support soon."
To help Joanne reach her £10,000 fundraising target for the Gordon Ramsay Foundation and Cancer Research UK please visit https://www.justgiving.com/Joanne-Salley3/