One of the clubs at the forefront of the British surge in interest is the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy at its new premises in the former Bridon works in Bradford Road,
The academy’s head coach Keith Tate admits he is a traditionalist when it comes to boxing and had to be persuaded to allow girls into the gym. However, the first girls in the gym worked so hard and impressed Keith so much, not only with their determination but also with their technical ability, that they changed his mind.
“The first girls came to the gym as a way of keeping fit and I have to admit that they had to convince me to let them get into the ring because the early girls fights I had seen elsewhere were slapping handbags and I thought this is ridiculous.
“The girls who joined us worked really hard and were really keen. I made them do the same as they boys of their age and they convinced me they were up to it.”
A couple of years on and Keith is proud to have a talented group of young female boxers who are bringing new honours to the club. The squad includes a couple of women in their early 20s, several teenagers and some girls aged 11 and 12 who are just starting out and the mum of a two-year-old.
Natasha Blaine, 20, is one of the latest to impress, she has won both her bouts so far, the first at an event in Lancashire, her opponent that night asked for a re-match and that was arranged at the Cleckheaton club’s annual dinner show. Again Natasha won but in an even more stylish manner. The bout was so impressive that the sponsors of the evening selected it as their fight of the night.
Alex Wild, 21, is another of the great hopes at Cleckheaton and her most recent contest was on international duty, representing Yorkshire against the Danish national squad.
Alex won her bout 16-9, which was all the more impressive considering it was her first time in the ring for almost three years following the birth of her baby who is now a bouncing two year-old. It means she is unbeaten in her career of five fights.
Alex was one of the first girls to join the gym and was a big influence in changing Keith’s mind. He has high hopes because of her attitude to training and her solid technique.
“Alex is looking brilliant on the pads and is doing that regularly,” said Keith. “Recently she went to spar with a female champion from Rotherham who said it was one of the hardest sessions she has done.”
Another teenager who has been praised for her attitude is Jodie Whitehead. She lost on her debut but has vowed to come back stronger when she returns to the ring.
There are also a number of junior girls who are preparing to make their debuts. Just as with the boys, Keith won’t allow the girls to compete unless he feels they are ready, not only being fit enough but also having the right mental capacity to cope.
“Sometimes no matter how much you spar in the ring it doesn’t quite prepare you for when someone hits you for real but the girls seem to take to it really well,” explained Keith.
He added that the only problem has come when girls initially hold back, almost afraid to hit hard and potentially hurt people, but he warns that when they do let go they are formidable contenders and will be for a long time at the Cleckheaton club.