Dessie Macartney can be found pounding punch-bags at ProKick
56-year-old Ulstermen will slip into armchairs today and
flick through a Sunday paper as the aroma of a juicy carvery being
prepared slips from underneath the kitchen floor.
But one man who’s just a few years short of a free bus ticket
has no intention of punching in his pension pass.
Rather than taking it easy after a hard week’s work, Belfast
man Dessie Macartney can be found pounding punch-bags in modest
kickboxing gym in east-Belfast.
Today is just another day for Dessie as he prepares for a remarkable
appearance in the ring later this month.
It may be too late for him to reach the heights of his coach, former
four-time world champion Billy Murray, but Dessie is already a champion
in the eyes of his grandchildren who will be holding his spit-bucket
in the Carrickfergus Leisure Centre on August 28.
The fighting grandfather first dabbled in his sport four years ago.
His only other sport before then was “exercising the right
arm at my local”.
“Throughout my entire life I was never motivated to get involved
in any sport,” said Dessie.
“I like to see Liverpool win but wouldn’t really consider
myself an avid follower of football or anything else. I just worked
and enjoyed a pint and never had any intention of exercising, let
alone compete in kickboxing.”
Born and raised in east-Belfast, the father of four discovered his
love affair with his sport after “running the grandchildren”
to the gym.
“It was just through word-of-mouth that I heard about other
kids involved in kickboxing at a local gym and thought it might
be good for my grandchildren.
“So, as grandparents do, I took on the responsibility of taking
the kids to the gym and waiting for them while they trained. I watched
them for while and every week I began to convince myself that I
could do what they were doing.”
Dessie admits to keeping his feelings close to his chest, afraid
that he “might be laughed at” if he showed an interest
in taking up a physically demanding sport just months after his
But he eventually plucked up the courage to ask ProKick coach Murray
if he could join in.
“I was worried what the kids might think about their grandad
lining up beside them in the class. But they were very supportive.
In fact, I think they thought it was cool that I was taking part.
“When I told my wife I wanted to become a kickboxer she said
I had gone crazy. Now that she knows I am crazy, she just lets me
get on with it. I was apprehensive at first but now I feel I have
grown in confidence. It’s pretty cool telling people that
I am 56-year-old kickboxer!”
Dessie’s grandchildren, Andrew 14, Abie 10, Laura 7 and Lucy
6, are all budding prospects of Billy Murray’s highly successful
Prokick Gym in Belfast.
Young Abie recently had the honour of holding grandad’s spit-bucket
and magic sponge during his recent debut – an exhibition bout
in May that helped raise over £10,000 for homeless charities
in Northern Ireland.
Amazingly, little Abie will attempt to pass the junior Brown Belt
of her development this afternoon, keeping a step ahead of grandad.
Later this month he takes another step towards competitive action
when he fights in Carrickfergus, sharing the same bill as current
world champion Gary Hamilton.
When Dessie, a fuel distributor, began kickboxing he weighed in
a 14 stone. He is now a fighting-fit 12 stone!
“I lost my beer belly and my self-esteem shot through the
roof,” he added.
“It’s hard work but at the same time it’s enjoyable
and it’s easy to stick at it when there are targets to achieve.
“My diet has improved and I finally have a structure in my
life. I can’t believe I simply used to work, have a pint and
“I know time is against me as a fighter but I have an aim
of becoming an instructor and encouraging more people my age to
try out the sport.
“My colleagues at work constantly banter me but I know they
secretly would love to do what I’m doing. I only wish I had
discovered it 30 years ago.”
His coach, Billy Murray said, “Dessie is a great character
in the gym and inspirational to people younger than him. We live
in a more health-conscious world and people like Dessie are seeing
the benefits of staying active in middle years.
“He is a great example to his grandchildren too. They have
a hip grandad, rather than a grandad with dodgy hips!”
Tickets for the ‘Kings of the Castle’ show in Carrickfergus
are available from the Prokick hotline, 02890 651074, priced £5
for children, £7.50 for adults and £15 ringside. Family
tickets (two adults, two children) cost £20. For more details
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