The decision to make the England Boxing Women’s Winter Box Cup an annual competition has been applauded by Britain’s first ever professional Commonwealth Champion, Stacey Copeland.
The maiden edition of the two-day event in Urmston, Manchester at the weekend broke new ground by being the first in the UK to be laid on exclusively for women and girls.
It proved to be a huge success, with more than 85 bouts contested across junior, youth and elite sections in weights ranging from 48kg to 81kg.
As a result, organisers have already confirmed next year’s event, which will take place on 7th and 8th December 2019, with a venue to be confirmed in the New Year.
Copeland, who attended this year’s competition to present trophies and medals to some of the winners, was impressed with the standard on show and says it will only continue to rise with increased opportunities, such as that which the Box Cup provides.
“It can be an issue for women to get enough bouts to build up their experience because the pool of boxers is smaller than for the men, but this competition is an ideal opportunity for that and it’s brilliant,” said Copeland, a three-time Elite ABA champion with Bredbury Stockport ABC, before turning pro.
“I think the tournament will have acted as a huge inspiration for lots of women and girls… it’s that thing that if you can see it, you know you can be it. I’ve seen clubs with young boxers with them who have not competed but have come to watch and been able to see where they can go.
“At the first big Box Cup for women I went to in Sweden I saw, when I was a relative novice, Kelly Harrington, who is now a professional World Champion, and remember thinking ‘Wow, she’s amazing!’. To have some exceptional boxers to look up to is very important, which this competition has, and will, provide.”
World and European Youth Champion Gemma Richardson was among those boxing at the weekend as she won the Youth A 64 kg final by stopping St Ives’ Harli Whitwell.
She said: “It’s been a great year for me to win at two major championships, but to be able to box and win at an event which is all-female means a lot.
“It’s nice for it to be all about just us, and not the boys as well. A lot of the girls know each other, but we’ve never had that chance to box together before, with boxers from overseas as well, all at the same event.”
A key goal for England Boxing to increase the popularity of the sport among women and girls, with the Box Cup seen as an ideal tool to help that process.
With numbers of participants on the rise – there were 1,560 female members of the national governing body at the end of last year, up from 1,287 two years previously – the hope is that the competition will also expand and welcome more boxers from at home and overseas.
“The event went really, really well for its first year and the buzz around the arena has been amazing, so we want to make this happen annually,” said England Boxing Events Manager Lynsey Lockey.
“People from a host of countries, not just the clubs across England, have been coming up and saying how well it’s been run and that it’s been brilliant to help promote women in sport.
“The England talent team have won 38 medals at major championships this year and half of those have come on the female side, showing the huge progress that’s been made at elite level.
“But it’s not always been well-known at grass roots that there are opportunities for girls and women to box – and officiate – in the same way as there has been in other sports. Now, though, with help of events like this we are now showing that boxing is very much a mixed gender sport.”