Leeds boxer Nicola Adams finds love with ring rival

Nicola and Marlen pictured together (Instagram @marlen_esparza)
Nicola and Marlen pictured together (Instagram @marlen_esparza)
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Leeds's Olympic boxing hero Nicola Adams has revealed that she has found love ahead of her first professional bout - with a rival fighter.

Nicola confirmed to Daily Mail Sport that she is in a relationship with American boxer Marlen Esparza, who took the bronze medal when Adams won gold in the flyweight division at London 2012.

The pair were not friends at the time, but became closer after meeting again at a training camp in Colorado and have now been an item for the past year. They are currently training together in California ahead of their professional ring debuts.

The 34-year-old told the Mail that their relationship works because Esparza, 27, understands the demands of her tough training regime and follows a similar strict diet to maintain her fighting weight.

Esparza, whom Adams says she will never fight against, makes her first professional appearance in Nevada this week, while Adams must wait until April 8, when she returns to the UK to fight at Manchester Arena.

She will head to Leeds in May for her homecoming fight - the first bout she has contested in her home city since the age of 13, when she fought in an ex-servicemen's club.