From boxing to book writing

By Poppy Joy Watson

When unfit, middle-aged lab technician Marion Dunn Googled “cheap gyms in my area”, she had no idea she was about to become a boxer.

She recalled: “After a long period of work and study combined, I got really unfit in my late 40s. I wanted
to do something about it.”

That ‘something’ turned out to be stumbling into a worn-down youth club doubling as a boxing gym near her home town. 

Glasgow-born Marion added: “I thought, ‘I’ll just give it a go, it’ll get me fit.’ And it did. I was made to feel incredibly welcome.

“At the time, I was the only woman but it didn’t matter at all. The guys were lovely, and encouraging right from the start.”

Marion, 56, signed up for three sessions of intense training per week. Six exhausting weeks later, she had fallen in love with the sport. Now, she is an author as well a boxer, and last week saw the publication of her first memoir – The Boxing Diaries: How I Got Hooked.

A bit like Marion’s boxing endeavours, her book-writing career was also unintentional.

She said: “I kept a training diary to try and remember some of the more complicated boxing moves I had been taught. Then I started putting in little anecdotes from each day.

“After two or three years of doing this, I had 90,000 words. I thought, ‘Wow, perhaps I’ve got the making of a book here.’ The rest just went from there.”

However, the self-confessed ‘backroom lab nerd’ is no stranger when it comes to putting up a fight.

Marion was born at 23 weeks when her mother unexpectedly went into labour while holidaying in Lochcarron in Wester Ross with her husband in June 1963.

The concerned parents were taken to Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary by ambulance, where Marion was born. Fortunately, the infirmary had special expertise in caring for pre-term babies, and she spent the first three months of her life in an incubator.

She said: “I’m lucky to be alive, and I thank Glasgow heartily for my survival. Not only did I survive but I had a very good quality of survival, which was rare at the time.” 

Marion’s mother was born and raised in the east end of Glasgow in the 20s, and her mother’s relatives still live in Scotland.

The enthusiastic boxer, who now lives in the Yorkshire Dales, considers Scotland her second home and declares a lifelong addiction to its mountainous countryside in the memoir’s chapter: ‘Saved by Scotland‘.

She admits taking up a new sport wasn’t without its risks. Marion says a lot of hard graft was required to mitigate against the effects of boxing.

She said: “I think of myself like an old car. One bit breaks down and I have to tinker a bit with it to get it right, then it’s something else.”

After a serious back muscle injury, caused by overusing her favourite move – the jab – Marion was forced to quit boxing for almost 6 months. She took refuge for a while in the south of Scotland, near Moffat, where views such as the hanging valley waterfall the Grey Mare’s Tail helped take her mind off her injury.

She visited a physiotherapist who specialises in boxing, forced to quit boxing for injuries, and did two hours of yoga a week, and was soon reunited with her boxing gloves.

However, the aches and pains didn’t put her off. In fact, as Marion nears retirement, she is thinking about becoming a boxing coach for the older generation.

She said: “I’m not giving up boxing anytime soon.”

It seems she is hooked, for the foreseeable future.

● The Boxing Diaries: How I Got Hooked, by Marion Dunn. Published by Saraband, £9.99. Marion Dunn is appearing at Aye Write on March 15. Go to for details.

Published in the Daily Record January 2020.



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