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Shelley Watts heads strong Australian team at AIBA Women's World's in Jeju Island
by Michael O'Neill
Photo: Facebook
October 13, 2014


(OCT 13) Whilst most of the International media headlines went to England’s Nicola Adams at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, one of the most impressive boxers I saw in action that week was the ‘relatively unknown’ Australian, Shelley Watts from Laurieton, Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

She created a major upset in the Preliminary round when she upset the hot favourite, England’s Natasha Jonas taking a majority decision 2:1.

“The great thing about boxing is it doesn’t matter if you’re ranked number one in the world or number 100, it’s how you go in the ring,” she said. “That’s why I had no fear when I saw I had drawn Jonas first up. “I knew I had to beat her for gold anyway, so I might as well get it over with.”

Next up was Isabelle Ratna from Port Louis, Mauritius (MTS) with the Australian gaining a TKO R2 decision before defeating Northern Ireland’s Alanna Audley-Murphy in a tough semi-final battle 3:0. Murphy of course is a highly experienced boxer having competed for Ireland in the 2010 Worlds in Barbados at 64kg.

So the big question was could she take Gold at the expense of India’s Laishram Sarita Devi in the lightweight final in Glasgow? It was not a great fight to be honest, certainly not as good as her win over Jonas in the opener but win she did and thus became the first Australian woman to win a medal at a major International event since Desi Kontos took bronze in the 2002 AIBA World’s in Antalya, Turkey, where Kontos reached the semi-final losing to eventual Gold medal winner, Russian Irina Sinetskaya.

In that Commonwealth final against the Indian, Watts was ‘prepared for battle’ and certainly met with stiff resistance, especially in the first round

"It was a great fight, it was a war," Watts said. ‘Not a lot of tactics, just a lot of punches thrown, but sometimes you’ve just got to brawl it’, she told the assembled media later.

The two could meet again in Jeju depending on the outcome of the AIBA’s investigation following the events at the Asian Games in Incheon.

As she told the ‘Port Macquarie News’ she changed tactics at the end of the first on the advice of coach Don Ablett who felt that the Indian would tire the longer the fight went on: "The coaches knew she was going to tire eventually," Watts said. "The fast pace was going to take its toll, and I knew I would have plenty in the tank."

She did in fact compete at the 2012 World Championships in China, going out in the quarter-finals of the 64kg class against eventual Gold medallist, Pak-Kyong Ok of North Korea (PRK). Watts is thus unlikely to be seeded at 60kg in this year’s championships in Jeju City where depending on who enters, the top two seeds are likely to be Ireland’s Katie Taylor and her old adversary from Russia, Sofya Ochigava.

There remain some members of the International media – including a few Russians - who feel that Anastasia Belyakova may be the Russian entry in Jeju Island. Should she not be present then the next likely seeds would be Tajikistan’s Mavzuna Chorieva and/or Brazil’s Adriana Dos Santos Araujo but Shelley Watts if given a ‘good draw’ is capable of causing an upset or two. Watts is currently ranked 6 at 64kg in the latest rankings with Jonas on 1, Belyakova at 3 , Mikaela Mayer at 4,and Sweden’s Patricia Berghult at 11. It is possible that at least 3 of those boxers will compete at 60kg in Jeju Island.

Though Watts is arguably Australia’s best hope for a medal, they are sending a very strong if small team to Jeju Island. Here thanks to the ‘Boxing Australia’ official website is the squad with profiles:

Australian Team for the 2014 AIBA Elite Women’s World Boxing Championships –12th-25th November at Jeju, Korea.

48kg Lauren Camilleri (Victoria)
51kg Kristy Harris (Victoria)
54kg Cherneka Johnson (Queensland)
60kg Shelley Watts (New South Wales)
75kg Kaye Scott (New South Wales)

Boxing Australia’s President Mr Ted Tanner stated ‘I believe that this team is one of the strongest that will have left Australian shores. Small in numbers but of high quality’.

Head Coach Kevin Smith said ‘This is the biggest event for the year for the female boxers. The World Championships is the pinnacle and we are sending a team that we believe is capable of providing Australia with its first medal since 2002 (Desi Kontos at 2002 World Championships in Turkey)’.

Lauren Camilleri – 48 kg

Lauren is viewed as a boxer with great potential for the future and for this year’s World Championships. She had a great performance at the 2014 Elite Women’s Selection event and was judged the ‘boxer of the tournament’.

Lauren is coached by Dave Hegarty from Tarneit Boxing Gym in Hoppers Crossing, Victoria.

Kristy Harris – 51 kg

Kristy made the top 8 at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and competed in the 2013 Silesian Open (Poland) and 2013 Queens Cup (Germany). She also competed at the 2012 AIBA Elite Women’s World Championships. Kirsty is a two-time Australian Champion winning the 2013 and 2014 Australian Championships (51 kg).

Kristy is coached by Kel Bryant from the Collingwood Boxing Club in Collingwood, Victoria.

Cherneka Johnson – 54 kg

Cherneka has already attended three World Championships in her young career. The 2011 AIBA Junior World Championships in Turkey, 2012 AIBA Elite World Boxing Championships in China and 2013 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Bulgaria. She is a multiple Australian Champion at Junior and Youth level.

Cherneka is coached by Allan Nicolson Jnr from the Albert Boxing Club in Albert, Queensland.

Shelley Watts – 60 kg

The 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist attended the 2012 AIBA World Championships in the 64kg category in Qinhuangdao, China. Shelley made the top 8 at this event. She has also competed in the 2011 Chemistry Cup, 2013 Silesian Open (Poland) and 2013 Queens Cup (Germany). She is a two-time Australian Champion, winning the 2011 and 2014 Australian Championships (60kg).

Shelley is currently ranked 6th in the World in the 64kg (AIBA Rankings) and is coached by Mark Grech from ‘Toe the Line Boxing’ in Penrith, New South Wales.

Kaye Scott – 75 kg

The team captain from the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Kaye made the top 8 at the 2012 AIBA Elite World Boxing Championships in China. She has also competed in the 2013 Silesian Open (Poland) and 2013 Queens Cup (Germany). Kaye won the 2014 Australian Championships.

Kaye is currently ranked 11th in the World in the 69kg (AIBA Rankings) and is coached by Danny Fleming from Hornsby PCYC Boxing Club in Hornsby, New South Wales.

We end where we began, with 26 years old Shelley Watts here talking about her future dreams of Gold, perhaps in Rio if not in Jeju, (interview in the Sydney Morning Herald)

“The sacrifices I have made to pursue these dreams, which include training two sessions a day, six days a week, giving up fulltime employment in order to be able to train and hone my skills, spending the majority of my time travelling to find the best sparring and training partners, pale in comparison to stepping into the ring and having my hand raised in victory. As a boxer, that's my iron psyche and is what continues to drive me to achieve my goals!!

She is passionate about boxing, and believes the perception that the sport is too dangerous for women has acted as motivation for female fighters. "I think it's coming up with the times, and it's quite sexist and discriminatory to say that I guess”.

Here is Shelley in action here in Malcolm Allard’s award winning production: The Iron Psyche : Link

As she said in a Sydney Morning Herald interview earlier this year: "Boxing is not just a sport. It's a lifestyle and you have to push yourself every day. You have to be the fittest runner, the fittest swimmer, the strongest puncher."

Every result from Women’s World Championships from 2001 in Scranton,USA to 2012 in Qinhuangdao,China courtesy Strefa Poland Boxing : Link

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