Equality for Female Boxers in the Olympics

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England Boxing ABA Championships
by Michael O'Neill
April 21, 2015

(APR 21) This weekend the 2015 England Boxing Elite National Championships take place at the Echo Arena in Liverpool (24/26 April) - male and female finals will take place on the same day - the first time that this has occurred in the 128 years old history of the tournament.

England Boxing board member Giorgio Brugnoli commented: ‘The finals weekend of the Elite National Championships is one of the highlights of the boxing calendar and this one promises to be exceptionally special as it is the first time that the men’s and women’s finals will be held as part of the same competition.

‘Having an Olympic champion and household name like Nicola Adams taking part, along with a number of established male and female boxers that have also won medals at World and European championships and the Commonwealth Games ,is great for the competition and a sign of the boxing talent we have in England.

‘It also provides an opportunity for up-and-coming boxers to showcase their skills, make a name for themselves and progress their careers in a way that may one day see them go on and compete at World and European Championships and the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

Some 113 boxers (male and female) will appear over the three days of this year’s competition. At London 2012, Team GB was represented by Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas and Savannah Marshall but of course as we reported here recently, things have changed and Jonas has retired. Retired yes, but certainly not forgotten especially on Merseyside where she will be always welcomed warmly whether as a media pundit or indeed as a coach for the local Rotunda club.

Savannah Marshall, the ‘Silent Assassin’ from the Hartlepool Catholic club also misses these championships though she remains very much part of the GB Rio 2016 Olympic squad – another former Hartlepool star, Amanda Coulson will be here, keeping an eye on not just the boxers of today but also future stars of tomorrow as she is now part of the Team GB coaching setup at the Sheffield based English Institute of Sport (EIS).

Adams will be making her first appearance on English soil since London 2012, albeit of course she did strike Gold, ‘North of the border’, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Boxers from England,Scotland and Wales represent Team GB at AIBA World and Olympic championships but not those from Northern Ireland (such as Michaela Walsh and Alanna Audley-Murphy, both of whom also won medals in the Commonwealth. Confused? Let me explain. ‘Amateur’ boxers in Ireland belong to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) the AIBA’s only affiliated body on the Island of Ireland and thus represent Team Ireland in the Olympics.

Alanna though has long been based in and worked in England and has many English National, Regional and Civil Service ABA titles under her belt – this year she has entered again at 60kg and is seeded number 2 behind Chantelle Cameron. She also has another claim to fame since as 16 years old Alanna Audley she was part of the first ever sanctioned amateur bout in Ireland, back in October 2001 when she went under 23:12 to an even younger, 15 years old, one Katie Taylor.

The two have remained close friends ever since and Alanna has been part of the Irish team at various World, European and EU Championships on many occasions since.

Nicola Adams has no immediate plans to retire, unlike Jonas and recently said:

'I will keep fighting as long as I have the motivation to do so and there is no reason why that should not continue after the Rio Olympics.

'At the moment becoming a double Olympic champion is the only thing on my mind but I have other goals left to achieve including world gold after only taking three silvers so far.

'Despite all my injury problems I have never lost my love for the sport and as long as I keep that love of fighting and entertaining the crowd I will still be eager to compete.'

She will face strong competition in Liverpool from 29 years old, Lisa Whiteside who boxes out of the Savick and Larches club and who took silver at the last Worlds when deputising for the absent Adams. Indeed many felt she had done enough to win that final against Marlen Esparza albeit not those who mattered most – the judges. Today she said:

“If anything it’s not a winner-takes-all encounter,” Whiteside told the Lancashire Evening Post. “Because of the standard that we are both at, if it’s a close fight and the decision could have gone either way, it will be hard to work out who should go unless one of us really beats the other one convincing.

“But even then I still think it will come down to national performances over the next year. Obviously if – well I should say when – I get that win, it’s going to give me the upper hand isn’t it? It’s going to help me no doubt.

“There is a lot riding on it – there’s no getting away from it.”

One of the non-Olympic weights should also prove to be more than interesting as Bredbury & Stockport’s Stacey Copeland, seeded no.1 may well end meeting exciting young ‘up and coming’ prospect, Paige Murney from Unity BC.

Copeland was a late arrival on the boxing scene having been a soccer player of note with Stockport County, Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Belles.

She also accepted a scholarship to the United States back in 2004 and enjoyed a six month stint in Sweden some seven years later. She explained to the ‘Manchester Evening News’ at the time why she had quit soccer and turned to Boxing albeit at age of 29.

She felt she couldn’t play football to the same standard due to wear and tear of the knees, so the time was right to take up boxing.

"It would have been great to stay in America and go into coaching or do a Masters, but my baby niece had come along," she said.

"I wasn’t ready to give up competitive sport so I wanted to do boxing.

"My dad wasn’t sure at first, he knew it’s a really tough sport. Because he’d got daughters, he thought it was a conversation that would never come up.

"But we gave it a go, the training’s gone well, and we’ll carry on giving it our best shot."

Stacey's Dad, Eddie Copeland, a famous name in the annals of North West and English ABA boxing, himself an ABA champion in 1979, before turning Professional so Stacey comes from a great 'boxing family' as Eddie's father-in-Law Roy Richardson had been running the Bredbury Club in Compstall for over 40 years.

When not boxing, or coaching, she is a Teacher Assistant at Parrs Wood High school in Didsbury where she works with children with challenging behaviour, a job she loves despite all the challenges faced by the kids and the amount of time she needs to concentrate on her boxing career and her family.

I well recall the first time I saw her in action back in December 2011 when I was covering the ABA Female championships in Gorton at Cedar Mount Boxing academy. She had only been in the sport some eight or nine months at the time but was very impressive in winning the Novice title.

One of her main challengers in Liverpool this weekend will be the aforementioned Paige Murney from the Unity club in Beaumont Leys near Leicester. Paige is only 20 but has already won 16 bouts out of 19 and was recently featured across four pages of the ‘Leicester Mercury’, in the English East Midlands. She is off to Coventry University in September which is within easy reach of her Braunstone home. At Coventry Uni she will be studying Sport and Exercise Science and wants to have a degree before she
quits boxing.

"I definitely want to be boxing for England in the next couple of years," she told the Leicester Mercury. "After boxing, I would like to go into coaching."

Boxing she says has changed her life: "I was shy – not really, really shy, but shy and I wasn't that confident," she says. "I would never have thought I could do the things I do now.

"I never would have thought I'd be running classes, teaching people, on my own. I wouldn't have had the confidence before."

That the AIBA has NOT yet persuaded the I.O.C to include 69kg as one of the Olympic weights means that the wait goes on for Stacey, Paige and indeed anyone who cannot make one of the three Olympic weights. Equality? Tell that to the thousands of young and not so young women seeking to represent their country in the Olympics!

A reminder, that all those in the boxing community, family and friends can sign our petition. Does not matter where you live and for those in the United Kingdom who are present in Liverpool on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday be sure to get them all ‘signed up’ or take it back to your club and do so sooner rather than later and yes, males can sign too!

For more detailed information, the complete entry list, ticket prices and the rest of the England Boxing tournament news see here: http://www.englandboxing.org/aba/index.cfm/news/113-men-and-women-going-for-glory-in-final-stages-of-england-boxing-elite-national-championships-2015-this-weekend-in-liverpool/

You can find the complete interview with Paige Murney here: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Paige-Murney/story-26359542-detail/story.html#ixzz3Xxu6DBvR 

And don’t forget to get your friends and all who read this to sign the WBAN petition – LINK here:   http://www.womenboxing.com/NEWS2013/news072913wban-petition-official.htm

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