HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 28.1.17
By Alan Hubbard
Last weekend saw a massive demonstration for women’s rights across the globe.
Then on Monday, Nicola Adams, leading lady of the British fight game, pitched in with her own demonstration of women’s rights – and lefts – by announcing that she was turning pro.
It was not unexpected, as the 34-year-old world, European, Commonwealth and now double Olympic champion had already declared she doubted she would be chasing a golden treble at Tokyo 2020.
Nonetheless it was a memorable milestone for British sport, evoking memories of the first British woman to fight professionally in the 1990s. The flamboyant Jane Couch once knocked out a man in a Fleetwood bar when he patted her bum! She has since dabbled as a boxing promoter.
At least flyweight Adams, newly awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE), confines her fisticuffs to the ring where she will make her lucrative paid debut in Manchester on April 8 under the promotional banner of Frank Warren as part of his new TV deal with BT.
Warren’s surprise association with Adams comes three months after Ireland’s iconic London 2012 Olympic lightweight champion Katie Taylor began fighting professionally withr Matchroom. In the United States, Claressa Shields, the only American boxer, male or female, to win successive Olympic golds, has also made a successful pro debut.
This means that Olympic boxing has lost its three pioneering women champions in the space of a couple of months. Compounded by another Olympic star’s decision to make the switch this week, the 2016 super-heavyweightgold medalist Tony Yoka.
The 24-year-old 6ft 7in Parisian, who controversially beat Britain’s Joe Joyce by a split decision in the Rio final, has been signed by new promotional outfit Ringstar Sports founded by ex-Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer.
The most astonishing aspect of Adams’ deal is that Warren had previously stated publicly that was not an advocate of female boxing. But clearly the effervescent little lady from Leeds with the infectiously winning smile has won over the once sceptical 64-year-old Hall of Fame promoter.
“I make no bones about it, I don’t like women’s boxing, never have and never will,” he wrote in his column here two years ago, shortly after the death of a female boxer in South Africa.
“I admire anyone who does any sport at whatever level and some women like to express themselves through boxing, but I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not a fan.
“It is not a chauvinistic stance because I’m all for equality in sport and in life but I am just not comfortable seeing girls attempting to belt bits off each other in the ring, no more than I am knowing they are now fighting on the front line in wars.”
But when he unveiled Adams as his latest big name signing alogside a veritable rugby XV of mouthwatering pugilistic talent Queensberry’s Class of 2017 at the BT Tower on Monday he admitted: “I am eating humble pie. My head has been turned by the fantastic achievements of this young lady.
“Of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.
“I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion.”
As he added in juis column here yesterday: She possesses the talent and character to propel women’s boxing to unchartered levels and help it to become a mainstream attraction.
“It is not all about gender, however, Nicola is simply a bloody good boxer whose presence on the card would enhance any fight night and that is why we beat off considerable competition to be in position to showcase her on our shows.”
Adams,34, says she is delighted to be the fighter who convinced Warren to do a memorable U-turn.
“He said to me that I was the person who changed his mind,” she said. “I opened up his eyes to the opportunity of wanting a female boxer.”
Another irony of the situation is that Adams, like Taylor and Shields, could still compete in Tokyo if they wished.
For there is now provision for professionals to enter the Olympic boxing tournament after the International Boxing Association (AIBA) approved changes in June.
“I can still go back and do Tokyo as well, I wouldn’t like to rule anything out,” said Adams. “Never say never.”
Adams was the first female boxer to fight for England in 2007 and went on to win European and Commonwealth titles after battling back from a career-threatening back injury in 2009.
She secured a clean sweep of career major titles in the amateur ranks earlier in 2016 when she defeated Thailand’s Peamwilai Laopeam to win her first world title in Kazakhstan.
Her professional debut in Manchester on April 8 precedes a “homecoming” fight at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on May 13.
In signing with Warren, BoxNation and BT, Adams said she had found “a team that believes in my dream”.
She added: “Together we can help take women’s boxing to new levels and I can’t wait to get in the ring in April and start working towards becoming a world champion.”
She says her decision came after a chat with the 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight and now world pro champion Anthony Joshua. “Go for it,” he told her. “You’ll love it.”
The problem, as with the other top female boxers, is finding suitable opposition to sustain public interest once the novelty appeal has worn off. But no doubt Queensberry’s well-contacted matchmaker Jason McCrory will be working his socks off to unearth likely lasses who can provide boxing’s leading lady with the sort of competitive tests she needs en route to even greater fame – and of course a considerable fortune.
And as with Joshua, Adams will attract fresh, young audience to what is now Britain’s most prolific and productive professional sport.
Ten years ago I regularly received e-mails from Nicola’s mum urging me to write about her daughter, then a relative novice with the England women’s squad. “My little girl is going to be a champion,” she predicted.
Well, look at her now. That little girl is a national treasure and on the way to becoming a real life Million Dollar Baby.