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Lydia Braniff retires undefeated as
world champion


Lydia meets the Irish President Mary McAleesShe has been feted by presidents, pop stars, boxing royalty and a host of Belfast mayors – but now Lydia Braniff, one of the leading female kickboxer’s in the world, has decided the time has come to hang up her gloves.

The Belfast woman, who is reigning world Atomweight champion, is planning to step away from the ring and start a family.

Her retirement will be immediate and she’ll retire as undefeated WKN champ.
Lydia Braniff retires Video Clip

Motherhood’s gain is very definitely kickboxing’s loss. In a six year ring career, the 31 year old hasLydia with the Belfast Lord Mayor won Irish, British, European and the world crowns – and thrown in a few defences for good measure.
But more than that she has proved to be an inspiration for women everywhere proving they could become a force in a sport that has previously been the preserve of men.

Her coach, former four time four weight world champion Billy Murray, is in no doubt of her achievements – and unique legacy – and has paid tribute to the most successful female kickboxer Ireland has ever produced.

Lydia was one of the top three fighters I’ve looked after – male or female,” he said. “She mixed incredible natural ability with unquenchable drive and a desire to be the very best she could be.

Lydia (LEFT) in actionLdyia kicking her way to a successful defence of her world titleThe Mongolian visits the canvasLydia punches the Mongolian to the groundLydia Braniff wins at the KICKmas III event were she fought for the Atomweight world title in front of boxing legend ervelous Marvin HaglerLydia wins in Canada

When she decided she wanted to fight competitively she said the world title was her target. And my goodness, she kept that target right in the forefront of her mind. She moved through national and international titles until she took the world crown in front of her home fans at the Ulster Hall in 2005. Many have come and tried to wrench that from her, but none have succeeded.

Mighty Atomeweight Lydia BraniffBelter Lydia at the famous LadyKillers event in October 2004Lydia Braniff with WKN beltPostie Lydia

Lydia, Natalie and GailIt has been a glittering career and one that has greatly advanced female kickboxing worldwide. She’s a wonderful asset who has retained grace in a sport that sometimes isn’t known for a lot of grace.”

He added: “Lydia has managed to become a champ while holding down a full-time job – she’s a post woman in Belfast. She deserves all the plaudits that are going to come her way and the sport will be the poorer without her.”

Lydia at Niagra Falls
ydia has fought across the world – from France to Canada, from Norway to Switzerland – and has met opponents from as far a field as Mongolia. Yet no-one could match the pint-sized ring terror. Her incredible tenacity in the ring (and her distinctive tattoo) earned her The Pocket Dragon nickname. And no-one was surer of her ability than ring legend Marvin Hagler. When he watched her compete at the Ulster Hall during one of ProKick’s legendary KICKmas events, his reaction was simple and his assessment direct. “Damn,” he said afterwards to Murray, “that’s a helluva little lady. They make ‘em different in Belfast!”

Lydia with Sam StoryWinner at the Irish Kickboxing Awards 2005WKN President at an official weigh in for Lydia Braniff's European title attempt in 2005

Lydia was also one of the party of ProKick trained fighters who met Irish president Mary McAleese when she paid an historic visit to the gym’s East Belfast HQ – and the president repaid the invitation when she welcomed Lydia into the official residence in Dublin for a return visit.

Pop Idol Darius Danesh woos the Prokick Girls at the Airport

Along the way the dynamic ring queen also turned the head of popular reality TV singer Darius.
After meeting Lydia he wondered how someone so delicate and shy out of the ring could turn into a tornado inside.

Darius and Lydia - BelterDarius with Stephanie wilson, Lydia Braniff and Gail HaganDarius Danesh and Lydia Braniff at the Irish Kickboxing Awards

Lydia’s most recent ring challenge saw her chalk up victory against German Thai boxing champion Suyin Gelis in a non-title fight in Belfast. She is sad to be taking her bow but says the time is right.

“When I started kickboxing, it was for fitness rather than any competitive side,” she said. “But Billy Murray gave me the confidence and belief to head into the ring. He has helped carry me to Irish, British, European and to world glory and helped me retain the world crown.”  

“I think the time is right for me to bow out and move to my next quest and that is to start a family. I’ve just turned 31 so now the time is right for my husband, Mark and I to create our own wee champ.  

The Witches of East-Kick - Lydia centreWitches of EastKick at the Holiday Inn hotel ahead of the Ladykillers event in 2004Natalie Deronja, Eileen McKendry Gray and Lydia Braniff - Ladykillers event 2004

I’d like to thank Billy, everyone at the ProKick Gym, all my family who have been so incredibly supportive all along the way and also the fans who have been behind me since the first fight and have never stopped.

Lydia Braniff retires as undefeated WKN atomweight World kickboxing championLydia Branniff and WKN professional world champion Gary Hamilton
It was been a remarkable time but I want to go at the top and at the moment I’m right at the top.”  

Belter Braniff's - Husband MArk gets his Yellow beltMark promised Lydia that said he’d do the housework for a year if she were to win. Her husband Mark may well be thankful for Lydia’s retirement. On the eve of Braniff’s world title he said he’d do the housework for a year if she were to win.

However, with the prospect of a little addition to the family, it’s unlikely he’s going to get much time to put his feet up and relax!

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