Black History Month: The story of Nicola Adams

Nicola Adams knew exactly where she was heading from the age of 13.

After going to the local gym in Leeds with her mum to get fit, Adams was soon in a boxing session and discovered her love for the noble art.

A year later and Adams stepped into the ring for the first time, winning an exhibition match and that’s when she knew boxing was for her.

“My journey started aged 12 when I decided to take part in my first fight,” Adams told the Yorkshire Evening Post in an interview.

“Years of watching boxing greats (Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Frank Bruno) had amounted to an intense passion for the sport and winning that first fight cemented my decision to pursue my dreams.

"I was 13 when I decided I was going to win an Olympic gold medal."

It took Adams until she was 17 to find her next opponent, but once she was back in the ring she showed her talents again with a second-round knockout.

In 2001, the Haringey fighter attended an England selection camp where she trained alongside David Haye.

Later on that year, Adams became the first female boxer to represent England and two years later she became English amateur champion for the first time.

Medals at the European and World Championships in 2007 and 2008 cemented Adams as a boxer on the rise, but there was still something missing.

Despite the success she enjoyed, it wasn’t until women’s boxing was added to the Olympic programme that Adams was able to focus solely on her dream.

Before that, the Yorkshire star had stints working as a builder and an acting extra on soap operas such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Eastenders.

"It was so hard before it became an Olympic sport in 2009," she told The Telegraph.

"Training was tough. We had to find our own facilities and we struggled to find coaches to take us away.

“It really was very tough, working alongside training, which is so hard, when you are coming up against those who are full time."

Women's boxing was given its debut at London 2012, Adams secured her spot on the GB women’s squad in early 2010 for the Games, on course to make history.

Silver at the 2010 World Championships set her up to aim for glory in front of a home crowd.

London came around and Bulgaria’s Stokya Petrova and India’s Mary Kom 11-6 were beaten in the semi-finals to set up a grandstand final at the Excel.

In front of 16,000 home fans, Adams pulled off her greatest victory yet by clinching gold against China’s Ren Cancan – the world No.1 and her nemesis in the 2010 and 2012 World Championship final.

Her place in history was sealed as the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal.

But that was just the start. Adams intended to go to the 2016 Rio Olympics and defend her crown.

On her way to her second Olympics, the flyweight won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games beating Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh by a split decision.

In Rio victories over Ukraine’s Tetyana Kob and the London silver medallist Ren Cancan ensured Adams progressed to face France’s Sarah Ourahmoune in the final.

And more history was made when a unanimous points decision meant Adams became the first British boxer to retain an Olympic title since Harry Mallin in 1924.

A switch to the professional ranks beckoned and the ever-smiling star started off with a points victory over Argentina’s Virginia Carcamo.

Three further victories meant Adams maintained her unbeaten record and after beating Mexico’s Isabel Mallin, she won the vacant WBO female interim flyweight title.

In September 2019, the double Olympic champion retained her WBO title with a split draw against Mexico’s Maria Salinas - that was to be her last professional fight, as she retired from the ring a couple of months later due to medical advice.

Despite calling time on her sporting career, Adams has made history at every stage of her career and left an indelible legacy for women’s boxing.

The 38-year-old is just as much of a pioneer outside of the ring as she was inside it, making more history this year on Strictly Come Dancing as the first celebrity to dance in a same-sex couple on the much-loved television show.

Sportsbeat 2020