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Veteran Brit Amanda Coulson ready to take on the world

Women's World Boxing Championship
Venue: Garfield Sobers Stadium, Bridgetown, Barbados Dates: 9-18 September

Coulson speaks to BBC Sport's Katie Still about the changes in the sport during her career

By Nabil Hassan

Amanda Coulson is well used to fighting her corner, both in and out of the ring.

For 13 years, the Hartlepool lightweight has campaigned vigorously for the sport she loves to gain the same respect her male counterparts receive.

Now Coulson, a stalwart of the sport, can concentrate on her biggest battle so far, gaining Olympic selection, a year after women's boxing was included in the programme for the 2012 Games.

Coulson can go some way to achieving that aim at the World Championships, which start in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, on Thursday.

"In terms of 2012, I'd like to think I'm now in pole position," the 27-year-old, who is part of a five-strong England team for the tournament, told BBC Sport.

"I've got to make my mark at the Worlds. I've been given this opportunity and I'm going to grab it with both hands."

Amanda Coulson
I've been boxing now for 13 years, I don't take it lightly I've been dedicated since day one

Amanda Coulson

Coulson's selection for the World Championships came at the expense of 22-year-old three-time ABA champion Natasha Jonas, with experience preferred to potential on this occasion.

Coulson started boxing at the age of 14 and, with three European Union medals to her name, is still in love with what she calls the "noble sport."

Since day one, Coulson has been fighting prejudice and winning. It is that competitiveness that drives her on. She simply does not do losing.

It all began after Coulson read about two 13-year-old girls - Emma Brammer and Andrea Prime - boxing and she was immediately intrigued.

Coulson thumbed through her local phone directory and, after receiving several knockbacks from gyms that did not take women, finally found a club that would take her - Hartlepool Catholic Boys' Boxing Club.

The club soon dropped the "Boys" tag from its name and Coulson's second battle was won.

Before long she was competing - her first fight at the age of 17 lasted less than 30 seconds - and Coulson was soon on the way to establishing herself as one of the most feared fighters in Europe. Winning had become a habit.

"People were a bit sceptical at first but they soon realised I was dedicated, I put my heart and soul into it, I was training all hours and once they'd seen me box they soon realised that," said Coulson.

"I've changed a lot of people's opinions of the sport and all of my family and friends are now fully supportive.

"From day one, my parents weren't too impressed with it, I guess no-one wants their daughter to go and get beat up in a ring, but they soon realised it is not a brutal sport, it is a noble sport. It's about being clever and outboxing your opponent."

Like any athlete, Coulson admits to having had to make sacrifices along the way.

When she is not training, Coulson can be found answering 999 emergency calls at a police call centre in Hartlepool. Her life is as intense out of the ring as in it.

But those sacrifices are now finally proving worthwhile and her training is now funded by UK Sport.

GB women selected for World Championships

"Boxing means the world to me," Coulson admitted. "I've been boxing now for 13 years, I don't take it lightly I've been dedicated since day one.

"I've sacrificed so many things for boxing. It's my whole life. I'm 27 years old now and I've had to miss out on holidays, nights out, going away with the girls - things that most people take for granted - but I'd do it all over again."

Coulson is as well-placed as anyone to talk about the changes in the standard of women's boxing over the years. A veteran of 69 fights, she is also the oldest member of GB's elite "podium" squad.

As participation has increased, opinions have changed and the standard has improved.

"The sport has changed dramatically over the past 13 years, especially women's boxing," said Coulson.

"I used to have a lot of negative feedback from men, or shall we call them old-school males, who didn't think we deserved to be in the ring.

ENGLAND WOMEN'S BOXING TEAM
Flyweight (51kg) - Nicola Adams
Bantamweight (54kg) - Sharon Holford
Lightweight (60kg) - Amanda Coulson
Light-welterweight (64kg) - Chantelle Cameron
Welterweight (69kg) - Savannah Marshall

"Slowly but surely, though, opinions have been changing and it's been great to go to shows and box and see people who have previously been sceptical come up to you and say 'Congratulations Amanda, you've done really well, I'm impressed'."

"Those comments hit home. We deserve to be boxing alongside the men. There is no reason why we shouldn't be treated the same."

Coulson faces a tough task to come away with a medal in Barbados, with Ireland's two-time world lightweight champion Katie Taylor again the favourite for gold.

And with many champions from different weights trying to make it into the three Olympic categories of flyweight, lightweight and middleweight, the standard will be even higher.

Coulson is joined in Barbados by fellow GB podium squad members Nicola Adams (flyweight) and Savannah Marshall, who is competing at welterweight in the Caribbean but aims to fight at middleweight in the Olympics.

Non-GB squad members Sharon Holford (bantamweight) and Chantelle Cameron (light-welterweight) make up the England squad.

Adams is another veteran and her selection comes at the end of what has been a rollercoaster year for the Leeds 27-year-old.

The 2008 world silver medallist only stayed in the sport because of the Olympic decision and injury almost scuppered her chances of inclusion in the centrally-funded podium squad.

Adams proved her fitness only days before the squad announcement and, after overcoming her back injury, is now ready to put a torrid 12 months behind her in Barbados.

Perhaps England's best hope of a medal comes in the welterweight division, with 19-year-old Marshall among the favourites for gold.

Marshall is seen as something of a prodigy in women's boxing and recently returned from the EU Championships in Hungary with a silver medal. It was only her second defeat in 28 fights.

The Hartlepool boxer was hugely critical of her performance in Hungary and says she will settle for nothing less than gold in Barbados.

"All these tournament are markers now and every tournament they box at is important," admitted GB performance director Rob McCracken, who already has one eye on the bigger picture - London 2012.

"They are all talents and they've got to grasp this opportunity they've been given."



see also
GB boxing trio chosen for Worlds
19 Aug 10 |  Boxing
Here come the girls
08 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Jonas and Smith shine in finals
06 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Female boxer eyes Olympic history
16 Apr 10 |  Boxing
GB Boxing selects women's squad
26 Mar 10 |  Olympics
Olympic boost for women's boxing
22 May 09 |  Boxing
Ex-pro McCracken to guide GB team
05 Nov 09 |  Boxing
Women's boxing gains Olympic spot
13 Aug 09 |  Olympics
Amateur boxing explained
01 Mar 06 |  Boxing


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