Natasha Jonas: From dinner scraps to Olympic boxing battles

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Meet Liverpool's sporting sisters

Natasha Jonas has always been a fighter. And not just in the boxing ring.

Growing up in a household of six children, Olympic boxer Jonas remembers dinner times were survival of the fittest.

"I was always fighting for my dinner," Jonas laughs. "So boxing was naturally the thing I'd go into."

Fending off her siblings and cousins at meal times has proved to be good training for the 29-year-old lightweight, who has won medals at a high level during her career, including a World Championship bronze in 2012.

If being part of a big family has made her tough, the area in which she grew up has given her the steely resolve needed for life as a boxer. The Liverpudlian was born and raised in Toxteth - an area more known for deprivation than raising sporting champions.

But Jonas speaks fondly of her inner-city childhood, so much so that she still lives in the same neighbourhood - even after the fame of becoming the first woman boxer to compete for Britain in an Olympics, reaching the quarter-finals in the lightweight category before losing to Ireland's Katie Taylor.

"It was sometimes a struggle and sometimes hard, and we didn't have the best of everything," Jonas admits to BBC Sport as she walks around the newly-refurbished local community centre, where she played sports with her siblings and cousins as a youngster.

"Yeah, it's underprivileged but it's home and it got us to where we are today regardless."

Alongside Jonas is her younger sister Nikita Parris, who plays football for Everton Ladies in the Super League and England under-19s.

The pair of them are popular around these parts. As they stroll onto one of the centre's 3G football pitches, the children stop playing and stare. One of them says: "Woah, isn't that that boxer Tasha?" Jonas smiles and waves.

"This was like a community place where everyone met up," Jonas recalls. "And even if you didn't play footy, people would sit outside.

"It would start off with just me and Nikita playing; the next minute there'd be a full-on 11-a-side game going on. You know everyone in the area and everyone knows you."

Parris, 19 and often referred to as 'Lil Tash' because of how similarly she behaves to her big sister, says: "The pitch you're standing on is where I first started playing football. This is where I first learned to strike a ball."

Once upon a time Jonas was set on being a footballer too, after being awarded a scholarship to play in the United States. But injury ended that dream. She was also fond of karate in her younger years and would train at her uncle's gym.

"We weren't allowed to sit around the house [as children]; we had to do something," she says of the rules her mother instilled to discipline a house full of children.

"Even as a little kid, I've always known that I wanted to do something in sport and it's kept me focused all the way through. Maybe when people have gone down another route, it's always kept me on track."

Parris, too, smirks as she admits she would "probably be in trouble somewhere" if it wasn't for her two football-loving brothers and next-door neighbour introducing her to the beautiful game.

Despite growing up in different houses, albeit just around the corner from each other, and being born 10 years apart, Jonas and Parris behave like best friends.

Jonas has carved out a career as a sportswoman and her sister, who has netted five goals for Everton Ladies so far this season, is keen to follow in her footsteps.

Parris admits she got emotional when Jonas marked her Olympic debut with a first-round victory over Quanitta Underwood of the United States at London 2012.

"We're very tight, obviously she's a role model for me," Parris tells BBC Sport. "Just being a sportswoman, the athlete, the professional she is - that's something I'd like to do.

"I was so proud, I was crying when she won her first round [at the Olympics]. I bounced round the house and nearly smashed a window because I was shouting."

Nikita Parris
Nikita Parris in action for Everton Ladies

Jonas describes watching her little sister rise through Everton Ladies' youth set-up and earn a place in the senior side as "special".

She adds: "You just watch and think: 'That's my little sister!' I'm proper proud she's pursuing her dreams and doing what she loves. It's nice to see someone else doing it and not just me."

Proud of each other they might be, but all that is forgotten when they challenge each other to a penalty shoot-out and Jonas saves one of Parris's shots. The Everton player's usual cheery demeanour fades.

"Nikita on the pitch is, how can I put it, very competitive," Jonas explains. It's what Parris herself describes as "Scouse proud". "You never want to get beat so you do anything to not get beat," she says.

That drive to win is another trait these sisters share. Whether it's Jonas fighting for her food at dinner time or Parris taking on her big sister in a penalty shoot-out, losing is rarely on their radar.