Nicola Adams has made a remarkable journey from the streets of Burmantofts to Olympic gold boxing champion and remains a sporting hero and inspiration to millions of women and girls around the world.
Today the 37-year-old announces in a Yorkshire Evening Post WORLD EXCLUSIVE that she is retiring from the ring, due to concern about her future health.
In an open letter, choosing to reveal the news here first and addressing her “hometown and the wonderful readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post”, she says: “You’ve championed me from the very start of my career and so, I wanted you to be the first to know I’ve made the very difficult decision to step down from the ring.
“I’m immensely honoured to have represented our country – to win double Olympic gold medals and then the WBO championship belt is a dream come true… But it’s not without taking its toll on my body, and aside from the expected aches and pains - I’ve been advised that any further impact to my eye would most likely lead to irreparable damage and permanent vision loss.
She is the Leeds lass whose glorious career accidentally started when she found herself in a Leeds boxing gym at the age of 12, when her mum went to aerobics and couldn’t get a babysitter, so took her along.
Soon after, she had her first fight: “I can still remember my first fight as a 13-year-old. It was at East Leeds Working Men’s Club and I boxed three one-and-a-half-minute rounds. I won on points. I forget the name of the girl I beat.”
Growing up in Burmantofts and attending Agnes Stewart High School, her beloved mum Dee and younger brother Kurtis have always been huge supporters of her path to success. She still has a home in East Leeds and adores her home city.
As a young girl she told her mum she would win a gold medal in the Olympics - when boxing wasn’t even an Olympic sport. She went on to become the first woman to win gold at the London Olympics 2012 and four years later in Rio, she won gold again.
The Flyweight champion, who turned professional in 2017 and has since won all five of her bouts, with three of those victories coming via knockout, said: “I was first inspired to take up boxing after watching a recording of the Rumble in the Jungle – that great fight in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
Nicola says of Leeds: “The people are really friendly. They recognise me when I am out and about and stop me for photos which I don’t mind. Leeds is a good place to shop and there are so many fine restaurants and bars. I like the coast too. As a kid, we went to Scarborough and I remember the penny slot machines.”
Quick fire questions:
What kind of impact has Leeds had on your career?
I’d have to say that the support I have felt from the people of my hometown has been massive. Knowing you’re in my corner gives me enormous strength.
You're very much seen as a trailblazer for women in sport, how have you found the responsibility of being a role model?
That’s so kind of you, thank you. In all honesty I try not think about the responsibility but I’ve always been really focused on what I want to achieve. There have been times it’s been incredibly hard but I’d encourage others to not give up, to overcome your hurdles and to keep getting better. That’s the most rewarding feeling.
You have been credited with inspiring the next generation of female boxers, how has that felt for you?
It feels a bit surreal, but if female boxers feel encouraged to pursue their dreams as a result of what been able to do – then I’m immensely humbled.
What's next for Nicola?
Boxing has always been such an important part of my life - and it always will - but after training every day for over 20 years, my body is quite looking forward to a rest!
Nicola Adams is nicknamed The Lioness and Babyface.
She went to Agnes Stewart High School, in Burmantofts.
Nicola was in the same class as Danny McGuire of Leeds Rhinos fame and still keeps in touch with him.
Honoured in the
She loves rugby league and Leeds Rhinos.
Nicola loves home city of Leeds and one of her favourite places is Roundhay Park and another is Trinity Leeds.
Her sporting hero is Muhammad Ali.
The Flyweight champion is 5ft 5ins and weighs around 51kg when training for a fight.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to boxing and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours, also for services to boxing.