Nicola was the first ever female Olympic boxing champion and the first Brit to successfully defend an Olympic boxing title. After golds in London and Rio she turned pro and now faces new challenges. A popular figure in and out of the ring, she has spoken openly about challenges both personal and professional, the role of sport in helping her deal with problems, as well as her dedication, focus and the feeling of facing an opponent one-on-one.
One of the stars of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Nicola made history as the first ever woman to win a boxing gold medal. Her humility, down-to-earth nature and infectious smile made her a popular winner. She defended her title at Rio, securing another gold for Team GB before turning professional.
Boxing since the age of 12, Nicola discovered the sport by accident when accompanying her mother to the gym. She appeared in her first bout at 13, but a lack of opponents and the developing nature of the sport meant she had to wait four years for her second fight. After that, she quickly became English champion, defending her title on three occasions. She went on to win silver at both European and World Championships. Later, she became the inaugural British Champion and finally won gold in the European competition.
Struggling for funds to pursue her sport, Nicola worked variously as an extra on Coronation Street and Eastenders, and also as a builder before the IOC recognised the sport, allowing funding to be released. 2012 saw women’s boxing debut in the Olympic Games and Nicola went into the competition second favourite in her flyweight division. Nicola progressed to the final but was very much the underdog facing the world number one and three-time world champion, Chinese fighter Ren Cancan. However, a superb match saw Nicola knock her opponent down and go on to win by a large points margin.
At Rio, Nicola secured a unanimous points decision over France’s Sarah Ourahmoune, taking gold and becoming Team GB’s first boxer to defend an Olympic title since 1924. Her victory helped Team GB overtake their London 2012 medal haul, making Great Britain the first nation to improve their performance immediately after having hosted the Games.
Since her elevation to star status Nicola has promoted boxing and sport to young people around the world, and has become a regular in the media. She has also spoken candidly about her personal and professional struggles and how her love for her sport and her irrepressible personality have won through.
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