Wakefield-born Rachel Bower is a detective with the Met – she’s also a champion boxer. James Cann and Julie Marshall spoke to her.
With her long curly hair and her slight feminine build it’s hard to imagine Rachel Bower in a boxing ring. But the 32-year-old from Walton, near Wakefield, has just become national Elite Champion Female Boxer at 54kg and consequently will represent England in the Three Nations squad in Rotherham this weekend.
Rachel produced the only stoppage of the championship; she proved too strong for opponent Jenna O’Reilly and recorded a technical knockout victory in the fourth round of their final.
Rachel, a serving police officer with the Met in London came late to boxing: “I have always been a bit of a tomboy, climbing trees, building dens and going out and getting into trouble with my mates,” she says.
“I played for Sandal Rugby Union Club when I was younger, represented my school at everything going and Wakefield at cross country level and surprised everyone by doing really well at NEW College Pontefract and gaining four A Levels at Grade A, which no one really expected. I never thought about boxing though, I never considered boxing or had any interest in it.
After school she went to Bournemouth university to study public relations and after graduating moved to London to join the police. “After I joined the police force someone suggested that I give boxing a go and I entered this big police tournament.
“I ended up winning by a walkover because there was only one other girl at my weight and she pulled out at the last minute.
“So my first fight was representing the police against the RAF, having never boxed in a match before.
“I’m absolutely delighted to have been picked to represent my country, “she says.
“I’m really looking forward to taking this opportunity to progress to the next level and seeing how far I can push myself.
“Boxing internationally is what I have been working towards for years so I’m glad all my hard work has paid off.
“Winning the English title was such a proud moment, the championships were held in the Echo Arena in Liverpool and, for the first time in history, at the same time as the men’s.”
As a serving police officer Rachel has many demands on her time and it’s difficult to balance her boxing and her career.
She says: “I’m putting myself forward for all the jobs at work that no-one wants to do and then I can turn round and say “I’ve got a fight on Friday, can someone cover my shift?
Rachel competed in the 2011 World Police and Fire Games in New York and came home with a silver medal. “I ended up boxing above my weight category which,in hindsight I’m not very pleased about. In the final I ended up boxing my teammate and room mate Hayley Webb and she was boxing for England at the time so she was at a very high standard.
“It was a bit weird because we sparred together and boxed on the same team for years so it was a bit uncomfortable and though she didn’t hold back it was fine straight after, having a drink and chatting like friends again.”
This year the 2015 games are being held in Fairfax, West Virginia and Rachel is hoping for a gold medal. “I’m really looking forward to the games in June, It’s a big event; all the police forces, fires services and prison services enter it and it’s great to be part of it.”
After the 2011 games Rachel considered hanging up her gloves and studied for a coaching qualification. But in 2014 she moved offices and found herself 10 minutes away from Fitzroy Lodge in Lambeth, a famous old club that has been teaching people to box since 1908; it was frequented by world champion David Haye when he was an amateur. She began training there and now competes for them.
There is a lot of pressure on her to do well at the Three Nations and she has been training hard; attending an England training camp and arranging some challenging sparring with a couple of ex-international boxers.
She says: “Unfortunately I took a bit of a break after the [Elite] Championships and have been very relaxed with my training and eating. This means I have to work even harder to make sure I’m ready to compete at this level.
She will join teammate Jenna O’Reilly in the event with the semi-finals getting underway at 11am on Saturday and the finals at the same time on Sunday.
Rachel is keen to spread the work among young girls that boxing is a sport they can enjoy and do well at and wishes she had discovered boxing at a much early age.
“ I spar against young girls and it’s not until they start talking about school that I realise I’m old enough to be their mum, she says. “I just wish that I’d discovered boxing when I was their age and think about how far I could have gone by now.
“Women are a bit restricted because they don’t have my weight which is unfortunate but it is a realistic dream for the kids coming up.”
“I came to the White Rose boxing club in Wakefield last time I was in Yorkshire and the coaches let me train there. I wish I’d have discovered it when I was younger and living in Wakefield.
“I remember the lads from my school going down there and it didn’t occur to me it might be something I would enjoy and be good at.
Married to a fellow police officer, Rachel is a detective constable working in the kidnap and human trafficking unit and spends around 12 hours a week training. Amateur boxing rules dictate that all boxers must retire aged 40 at which point continue with her coaching career.
She is also keen to challenge the misconceptions and stereotypes around women boxers. “Although I’m a tomboy I’m still very girly. Being a boxer is just like being any other athlete. It’s very skilful and its not necessarily just something that boys do. “I think people don’t expect me to be a boxer but then I get that with other things I do. I enjoy the fact that people don’t expect me to do the job I do or be a boxer and I like challenging stereotypes.
“The only thing I used to worry about was breaking my nose but then I think I’m experienced now and people look and think ‘she’s got a straight nose, she must be alright.’