A SCHOOLGIRL who is the only registered female amateur boxer in Barnsley and who wants to encourage other girls into the ring is a finalist in the Proud of Barnsley Awards.

Maisie Marsland, 15, trains at Keel Amateur Boxing Club, on Harborough Hill Road, run by Ken Waddington, and is the only girl at her club and the only one in the whole town.

She is one of three finalists in the Young Superstar category for the awards, for her achievements in boxing and her encouragement to other young girls to get involved.

“We know a lot of people from the gyms around Barnsley and not one has a girl for Maisie to spar with,” said Maisie’s coach, Gavin Coles, who is also a finalist for a Proud of Barnsley award along with his friend Steve Gilbert for the Charity Fundraising Team award.

Maisie has fought in four bouts but has had none in the last year due to lack of opponents.

“You have to spar with people who are the same weight and gender and have the same amount of experience to keep the fight fair,” said Gavin.

“So far we’ve had to get other female boxers from outside town.

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Maisie, of Greenside, Mapplewell, started boxing when she was 12, and was encouraged to join the sport by ex-professional boxer Ben Davies, from Dodworth.

“My dad took me to a fitness class with Ben,” said Darton Academy pupil Maisie.

“Ben encouraged me to try boxing and it just went from there and I’ve loved it ever since.

“I really like the fitness side to it, it keeps me fit and active and it makes me feel good after I’ve had a really good workout.

“At my club it’s really close-knit and we are like a family so it’s nice to go and see my friends and enjoy the sport.

“It’s sometimes a bit intimidating to be the only girl but the boys at my club are really respectful and the coaches are great, I really look up to them.

“It is sometimes a bit annoying to be the only girl because we’ve always got to travel for me to spar with someone and the boys can spar really easily.

“But when I get to spar with other girls it’s nice because we are all in the same position because there’s not a lot of girls in the sport.”

As well as boxing four times a week, Maisie is preparing for her school exams and dances at Emma Ledger Dance in Darton and insists that hard work is the key to success.

“Boxing has shown me that I need to work hard at things. Sometimes I get home from school and I’ve had a really bad day and I don’t want to go to training but I’m glad I go. I can do a really good workout and it leaves me feeling happy and refreshed.

“It’s the same with school and dance, things don’t always come easy to me and I know that if I work hard and try my best then I can do it.”

Maisie is keen to encourage other girls to take up boxing: “I would say that you don’t have to do competitions straight away, you can come for the fitness and to make friends and train.”