Stacey Copeland – an unsung trailblazer

Stacey Copeland – an unsung trailblazer


Stacey Copeland speaks to John Dennen a couple of profession that was very removed from atypical

WHEN Stacey Copeland began boxing she couldn’t battle. “As a little kid when I was first into boxing and just absolutely loved it and lived it and breathed it. And then I found out obviously it wasn’t legal,” she stated. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Her father Eddie was a boxer, her grandfather ran the fitness center and she or he’d been in there since she was seven years previous. Yet it wasn’t until she was 29 that she truly obtained to have her first aggressive bout.

When she was a baby she remembered one other child from Jimmy Egan’s, who’d simply gained the North West area, coming to their fitness center just for his sparring associate to fail to look.

“‘We need sparring for him,’ [his coach said] and my grandad went, ‘We haven’t got anyone.’ I’d just been doing some little skills stuff with my mate,” Copeland remembered. “So I was on the bag and I had my headguard on and he was like, ‘What about him?’ My grandad asked who. ‘Him.’ He went, ‘Erm, let me ask.’ And he went over and said, ‘Do you want to spar, proper sparring, he’s a good kid?’”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she replied eagerly.

“There’s just one thing, you’re going to have pretend to be a boy.”

“Yeah, sound.”

So Stacey swaggered over to the ring in the way in which she thought a boy would stroll. “I was about 11 so you can kind of get away with it. I had short hair, I had my headguard on,” she stated. “I had a top spar with him, his nose started bleeding, he got out. [After, his coach] came up and said to my grandad, ‘Who’s that lad?’ and he went, ‘Erm, it’s my granddaughter.’ And he went, ‘Oh, don’t tell him. Whatever you do don’t tell him.’
“It was mega having that experience so I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

But at the moment girls and women weren’t permitted to field competitively. “Of course it was not long after that that me and my little group wanted to get carded, start having our skills bouts and all that and that’s when he said you can’t. To me I’d done everything the lads did I so just assumed I’d box lads, I didn’t think anything different. I was playing footie with them,” Stacey stated. “I thought as a kid it would be fine. Because there weren’t any girls anyway. I didn’t know a single girl who boxed. That was it and it was dead confusing.”

The Amateur Boxing Association of England solely lifted its ban on girls’s boxing in 1996. “I couldn’t believe it when my dad and my grandad said I couldn’t box,” she stated. “For me it was where I felt happiest and most myself, it was in the boxing gym and I always have. So it was just weird really as a kid.”

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“By the time I got to that age I wanted to be competing and that was part of the enjoyment for me, competing,” she added. “I’d have waited years to box because even once it was legal no one was doing it yet.”

She started to play soccer extra significantly as a substitute, ultimately turning into a global. But because the years glided by boxing gnawed behind her thoughts. She stored it up for health, earlier than starting to coach with a view to competing. “I had amazing experiences in football, got to go and play in America, Sweden and Brazil,” she stated. “I always wanted a national title. I think because my dad had won the ABA title back in the day when it was at Wembley and he’d boxed Terry Marsh and everywhere we went people said, ‘Oh, he was the ABA champion.’ To me it was a massive thing. Obviously I used to go to the ABAs every year watching our boxers, the lads in my gym… So that was always what I wanted to do. I never lost that hunger and desire to want to know if I could do it as a boxer.”

She watched the ladies’s finals in Goreton and thought, “I can definitely do this and I know I want to.”

In her first ABAs she reached the semi-finals, which she gained, solely to be laid low by a bout of E. coli. “God knows how. I’m sure it was off my dad’s barbecue,” Stacey laughed. “I had a bit of salad, a bit of chicken and I was nearly dying. I kept training because I thought I’ve got to fight in this fight but I was just so ill I couldn’t keep anything down. I should have boxed on the Sunday and on the Friday I actually collapsed. Got taken to hospital and I was in hospital all weekend on a drip and it was just so miserable. So the girl I beat in the semi went and won the final. I was pleased for her but I had to wait then quite a while, because we had the Europeans.”

Copeland gained a European silver medal and obtained onto the GB squad earlier than she gained the Elite nationwide championships in 2015. “It was actually a couple of years later that I ended up being able to win. But it was special because it meant me and my dad were the first father and daughter to win ABA titles and it was lovely having him in the corner,” she stated. “That ABA title meant a lot because I’d always wanted one. [It] came after the European silver medal oddly enough. So it felt like a lot of pressure. Also the day before, grandad had got diagnosed with cancer so there was loads going on at once. It meant a lot to him as well because he still came to the fight.”

But Copeland has additionally been bitterly unfortunate. She was a profitable worldwide welterweight earlier than that turned a weight class within the Olympics. She turned professional however harm has now compelled her to retire, simply as the ladies’s skilled sport is experiencing a brand new resurgence.

“It’s hard when you can’t be part of that. When I got my licence, there was six of us, six UK professional females four years ago that was all. You could only ever imagine bringing someone over from abroad. Now there would have been fights for me here, which would have been just amazing,” she stated. “That’s all gone now but it surely’s arduous however a minimum of I’ve obtained to say what superb alternatives I’ve had. That I obtained to field for GB on the Europeans and the Worlds, skilled being an expert and I’m at all times going to be massively grateful for that and for the individuals who made that attainable for me.

“There’s lots to be really, really lucky for. But it’s an absolute sickener, isn’t it?”

Her knee had damaged down time after time. She had been hoping for a six-rounder to tune up for a world title battle. “Which was obviously my ultimate dream,” Copeland stated. “It was actually last summer in lockdown when it went again and it was just terrible”. Her boxing profession was over.

“I was in agony. It took weeks even to get back to walking and when I saw the doctor this time he said there’s a real risk for your long term mobility. I knew I couldn’t get through a fight camp because every time I increased my training it’s gone again,” Copeland stated. “It was similar to huge loss. It was similar to grief. I can completely perceive why folks really feel that means once they end, significantly sport.

“There’s not many issues that eat your entire being like sport does after which it’s actually simply gone. I do know that nothing ever, ever would be the identical as on the point of battle, getting within the ring to battle.

“The first weeks were horrible because it was just a massive sense of loss and grief. And a part of yourself. It’s just massive. So I totally understand what other people go through.”

She is likely to be an unsung trailblazer however she has had excessive factors in her profession. As properly because the Copelands turning into the primary father and daughter to grow to be ABA champions, Stacey was the primary British girl to win a Commonwealth title.

“Some people have got to be first to do stuff. Being first to win the Commonwealth title was amazing, making sure there was a belt after that for future female champions was important. So in a way I’m glad those things happened to me because it’s going to be better for the next ones coming through because of that. But being honest I’m a boxer. I want to win everything I can. I want to compete in everything I can. Missing out on the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games was always a massive sickener. Not having the belt after the Commonwealth title meant even though I had that moment I kind of didn’t,” she stated. “Winning the European silver medal had a profound impression on me. That entire expertise of not simply getting a medal however being round the entire staff and the employees and the total GB arrange was an exceptional expertise.

Stacey Copeland
Photo: England Boxing

“To come back to it all those years later, have those amateur experiences and then make my debut as a pro boxer was absolutely unbelievable and in my home city of Manchester as well, it was amazing.”

She gained her Commonwealth title in Zimbabwe, one other distinctive expertise. They visited colleges, a kids’s residence and did pads demonstrations. “It was a great experience, the people we had with us like Alex Matvienko, Nigel Travis and my coach Blaine Younis were just superb because they are coaches that put the boxers first no matter what and they’re so experienced and they remember what it’s like to box themselves,” Copeland stated.

“I knew I’d won the fight. Whether you get the decision is different, we all know that. I thought I’m not in my back garden here,” she continued. “I’d undergo each single factor I’ve been by means of in boxing to have that second a gazillion occasions as a result of there isn’t something prefer it.

“For at least a couple of hours the lump on my head, the massive golf ball on my hand, all the aches in my ribs just disappeared… It’s amazing what a bit of euphoria does for your injuries.”

While she will’t compete anymore herself, she is already broadcasting with BBC radio in Manchester. “I’ll definitely be involved in sport in general because I’ve never ever changed in my belief of its power to do good. I think it’s just got a phenomenal power to have an impact on people,” she stated. “Whether that’s in a charity way or a whatever way.”

“Through my sport experience I’ve been able to do that, going to the refugee camps and doing boxing and sport with the kids there, in the favelas in Brazil where we played football with some of the kids in the children’s centres there. In America I went to a juvenile prison once and attempted to set up a game of football and very quickly stopped, ‘let’s do no contact!’ Very quickly realised it wasn’t a good idea. Incredible experiences. I’ve seen sport make a massive life changing difference to people. Whatever way I can be a part of that, I will be,” she stated.

“Look at newbie boxing, it’s run 99 per cent by volunteers, who give their love and power week after week, night time after night time after, at no cost, simply to assist that child alongside, or assist the group or present someplace for teenagers to go. And then on high of that you just’ve obtained your refs, your judges, your timekeepers, your corners. All these folks that we couldn’t do it with out, who all make it attainable for the likes of me and everybody else to get to the place we obtained to in the long run. So it’s essential to present that again. Not simply while you’re boxing however actually after and try to assist different folks have even half the experiences I’ve had or hopefully much more and do even higher.

“That’s what you want to be part of.”