As recently as the early 1990s, boxing gyms were bastions of masculinity where few women would tread. Slowly but surely, female boxers broke down those barriers to carve themselves not just formidable reputations in the ring, but inspirational, decades-long careers.

Taking her first steps in the ring in 1993 was one of those pioneers, a 19 year-old Finnish woman by the name of Maarit Teuronen. Initially attracted to the sport simply for exercise, two years later she was crowned Finland National Champion, a title she would go on to win an incredible eight times.

“From that first day at the gym in my hometown of Tampere, my life has been all about boxing. I tend to do things for as long as they’re fun, and what could be more fun than boxing!” said the enthusiastic Teuronen, who has since gone on to become a successful coach. The Finnish star ended her career with 150 top-level bouts to her name, representing her country at the very first Women’s European Championships in France and the inaugural Women’s World Championships in USA in 2001, before hanging up her gloves in 2009 at the age of 35. By that time she had already begun coaching, making the transition to the other side of the ropes both easily and effectively: In 2013 the Finnish Boxing Association named her Coach of the Year.

“I work through joy and happiness. Even now when I’m coaching, giving up doesn’t exist in my vocabulary and the best moments are when I see my boxers outdoing themselves in hard fights. That’s when I feel I have succeeded nowadays. I hadn’t planned to become a coach, it’s just something that happened, and I’m happy for that. I believe I have so much more to give in boxing, and coaching female boxers is fantastic,” said Teuronen.

Veteran Finnish lightweight Mira Potkonen, herself a seven-time Finnish champion, double Nordic Champion and triple bronze medalist at the European Union Championships, is the famous coach’s current star, and hoping to make history as Finland’s first female boxer at an Olympic Games.

“For me as a coach, it’s important to be able to develop my own skills as well as making good relations with other coaches around the world. A great example of that was the AIBA 3 Star Coaches Course I took part in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2013. It was challenging but fun to be the only female coach surrounded by around 50 male coaches and all working together towards the same goal, to become AIBA 3-Star Coaches. That’s one dream come true, now my current dream is a spot at the Rio Olympics with Mira Potkonen.”