London 2012: Nicola Adams – the friendly face of boxing

By Ben DirsBBC Sport

In the latest part of our weekly #olympicthursdayexternal-link series profiling leading British hopes, BBC Sport's Ben Dirs speaks to boxing flyweight Nicola Adams.

While David Haye versus Dereck Chisora at Upton Park on 14 July has been labelled the ugly face of boxing, Nicola Adams, hoping to represent Great Britain down the road at the Olympics a couple of weeks later, presents a friendlier visage.

The Leeds flyweight is pretty much a walking, talking riposte to those who believe all is wrong with the sport, a perpetually smiling pocket of energy who bounces round the gym between interviews like a pinball between flippers.

Adams is living proof that boxing isn't all bad, it's just that certain people want to believe it is.

The 29-year-old is one of three British women hoping to qualify for London 2012 through the World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, which start on 11 May.

The London Games will be the first time women's boxing has been showcased, which you could argue makes Adams and her team-mates - middleweight Savannah Marshall and lightweight Natasha Jonas - feminist pioneers.

Not quite in the league of Emmeline Pankhurst, but doing their bit for the sisterhood nonetheless.

"I suppose we are [pioneers]," says Adams, who started boxing at the age of 12 (she is only 5ft 3in now, you must have barely been able to see her back then).

"We're putting ourselves in history and it's a moment that will never be topped again. I'm really lucky, it's an extraordinary achievement and it's so nice to be living the dream.

"I would tell any girls thinking of taking up boxing to get down the gym. If you feel like boxing's your sport, try it out. You never know, you might like it and in a few years you could be sat where I am and heading towards the Olympics."

Of course, there are those who believe women's boxing is every bit as ugly as two male boxers having a punch-up at a press conference - a curious view given it is 33 years since Britain had its first female Prime Minister, a far more exacting job than fighting four two-minute rounds for a living.

But Adams maintains her path has been a smooth one, to the extent that it was all she ever wanted to do.

"My dad would have the big fights on the telly, all the family would gather round and watch and I'd be bouncing around and getting told to sit down," says Adams, who counts Olympic legends Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard among her heroes, as well as the great Sugar Ray Robinson ("if I could throw the left hook with his kind of precision," she says of Robinson, "well, I'd be pretty good...").

"After that my mum started doing aerobics and they had an after-school boxing class for the kids. She took me to that and I absolutely loved it - I had somewhere I could bounce around!

"The lads acted like it was nothing different, they were just like 'are you coming down the gym tonight?'

"I feel most at home when I'm in the ring. I love the thrill and excitement of the crowd. When I get in the ring I come to life."

It should be remembered that Adams's qualification for the Olympics is far from a foregone conclusion.

Despite winning two silver medals at consecutive world championships, gold at last year's Europeans and two titles this year, she still has to reach the last four in China or be among the last four Europeans in the quarter-finals to make it to the tournament that really matters.

China's double-world champion Ren Cancan, who Adams beat in Bulgaria in February, and experienced Russian Elena Savelyeva are best avoided.

But having been tipped by a string of impeccable judges as perhaps Britain's best chance of boxing gold in London, were Adams to fall short it would constitute a huge surprise.

"I just want to get in there and get the job done," says Adams. "I feel like a horse at the races, raring to get out of the starting stalls. As long as you know you've done everything you can do to prepare, then there's nothing to fear."

While most of Britain's male boxers at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield harbour dreams of a post-Olympic professional career, it is a less realistic goal for its trio of women. But boxing's loss could be a boon for fans of lathery drama.

"It's hard to picture what I'd be doing if I wasn't a boxer," says Adams, "I've been boxing for so long.

"But I used to do extra work for Emmerdale and Coronation Street, so maybe I could have gone more down the acting route. You never know, you could be sat down having your tea one night and I pop up on your screen."

The next Bet Lynch? Why not, the Rovers is always on the lookout for a bubbly barmaid or two.

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