Nicola Adams’ career has taken her far and wide. She has boxed in cold, unfriendly sports facilities in Eastern Europe and delighted packed Olympic auditoriums in London and Rio. On Saturday night, the double Olympic gold medallist will sample the most unique atmosphere in British boxing when she returns to her hometown of Leeds to take on Mexico’s Maryan Salazar (5-1).
“I last fought in Leeds when I was 13 but I’ve watched the videos and the crowd goes absolutely wild,” Adams told 32Red. “I can’t wait. I’m buzzing. Leeds has some really good sporting fans and it’s nice to be able to think that they’ll get behind you.” For all the latest boxing odds, see here.
Adams has settled into the daily grind of life as a professional boxer and has found some aspects of preparation easier than she did as an amateur. She now knows who her opponent will be rather than relying on the luck of a draw and she only has to make the flyweight limit of 110lbs once rather than it being a daily occurrence. The pre-fight routine of open workouts, head to head staredowns and press conferences threw up plenty of new experiences and from this weekend she will be boxing three minute rounds instead of two. The transformation from amateur to professional will be complete.
“I’m right into it now. I love it. It’s a lot better boxing without the head guard and I get a lot more free time to myself now.
“I really enjoyed it [the build up to her professional debut]. It was really good fun. The public got a chance to see me do my thing and work out and I got to do my first head to head. I thought it was all really cool. It really gives the boxing a bit of a buzz.
“It’s a lot easier because you’ve only got one opponent to focus on. You can focus all of your training on one person instead of fifty different people from fifty different countries. It’s a really big difference. The weight is a hell of a lot easier as well. I only have to make weight once now and it’s the day before the fight whereas before I’d have to make weight every single day.”
During Adams’ historic amateur career, her main rivals for major medals were Asian and European boxers. Currently, there are eight professional world champions campaigning between flyweight and super flyweight. Naoko Fujioka represents Japan but, otherwise, Central and South America are the dominant force in the lower weight classes. Being based on the West Coast of the USA in San Francisco, Adams obviously encounters plenty of Hispanic fighters and insists that the level of ability is extremely similar between the stars of the amateur sport and hardened professionals.
“Sparring the pro’s is a bit different but really they just seem the same. Boxing is boxing to me. I’ve seen all the different styles in the amateurs.
“Sometimes it’s just down to style [why the South American fighters do better as professionals rather than amateurs]. Maybe they came up against the world number one or two straight away and they didn’t manage to qualify for The Games. How the qualifying system works is that you qualify through your area. They’ll qualify though the Americas and we get the chance to qualify through Europe. Maybe the likes of the USA had a stronger team and they just pipped them to the punch. We’ve got to remember too that when you qualify through your region, only one person qualifies. You have to win the entire tournament to qualify in that weight class. You might be an average boxer and maybe against somebody else you might get a victory, but if you get a world champion and you have to win the whole tournament to qualify then it’s tough getting to the top. It really is. I guess that’s why when you get to the Olympic Games you really have got the best of the best.”
Women’s boxing has never been as popular. The scales have fallen from fight fans’ eyes as fighters like Adams, Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields have been given the stage to perform on. It will take time for demand to build around big and meaningful match-ups as the women who competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games establish themselves as professionals and fans familiarise themselves with the current champions.
Building an impressive highlight reel will keep the fans interested whilst the sport grows but knockouts are hard to come by during the formative stages of a career and Adams isn’t putting too much pressure on herself to begin reeling off stoppages. She is equally happy to impress with her ability.
“A bit of both,” she says. “I’d love to be able to get the stoppages as well as show people the talent level that there is in women’s boxing. With the two minute rounds, its very hard to do that because you’re always in a rush to throw punches. Especially if your opponent holds and it takes 15 or 20 seconds for the ref to break you apart. The round is almost done. You haven’t got time to plant your feet and look for openings, you just have to throw punches. It was quite frustrating for me the first time. Now, with the three minute rounds, I’ll be a lot more settled and a lot more comfortable.
“I’d literally get up off my stool and before I knew it I was sitting back down again. It went too fast.”
Nicola fights on Saturday night – see the latest odds here. And for a wide range of boxing markets, check out 32Red Sport here. If you’re up for a flutter on table games or the slots, be sure to check out our award-winning casino too!