On Thursday 18th May, the Leeds branch of Waterstones on Albion Street hosted the reigning Olympic, World, Commonwealth Games and European Games flyweight boxing champion Nicola Adams. Nicola was launching her new autiobiography, “Believe“, in her home city, with an interview and book signing.
The event was led by the interview, where Nicola briefly recapped her boxing career ad early life, effectively summarising the contents of her book.
Growing up in a single-parent household on a council estate meant Nicola had to stay determined and strong, especially when her mum was seriously ill and the teenage Nicola had to look after her, her younger brother and clean the house. Nicola discovered boxing in her early teens, yet women’s boxing was not considered a thing, so she initially trained alongside boys.
In her book she recounts in more detail the institutional sexism she and other women boxers fought against continually in the 1990s. It was not uncommon for them to have to share clothing, sometimes without time to dry out the previous wearer’s sweat before entering the ring, whilst the male boxers would have full kit provided to each of them.
The situation has been gradually improving however, and Nicola puts a lot of this down to the simple fact that medals were won. And she has won a lot. Visualising herself winning gold, seeking out the best trainers and working hard has enabled her to achieve and this is a message she repeats: that if you work hard for a goal, you can accomplish it. Nicola also recounted her rivalry with Ren Cancan and how important that was in her Olympic 2012 win, the first gold medal in Women’s Boxing which had not previously been a part of the games, as up until that point each had beaten the other twice. 2012 was the decider! Now she is going professional and her performance convinced Frank Warren to sign her, an infamous detractor of women in boxing. There is still much change to be made, but Nicola hopes she is an inspiration to the next generation of young girls who will not have to fight as hard as she has to reach where she is today.
The chat wasn’t all about boxing however. Nicola also regaled us with stories of how she met her fiancée Marlen. Both are boxers and are not afraid to talk competitively about the sport to each other. Thankfully their different weight classes mean they would never fight. They met at various boxing events, but it took a long time for them to approach dating. An early disastrous encounter at a vegan restaurant nearly put an end to it as Nicola happily ordered nachos, not realising vegan cheese is made with cashew nuts. As she is severely allergic to nuts, she had to be rushed to hospital. Thankfully everything worked out fine and Nicola and Marlen got to know each other in hospital rather than over a pleasant meal.
At the close of the event, Nicola signed copies of her book, happily pausing for selfies with her famous grin. Nicola Adams’ hero is Muhammad Ali, and like him she can confidently declare she is the greatest.