Development Championships 2022: female preview (Junior Class B, Under 57kg)
October 20, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny
It’s been a great couple of weeks for women’s boxing as it continues to grow and grow in popularity.
After the first all-female professional card in the UK in London last weekend, this Saturday and Sunday will see some of the next generation of grass roots talent take their turn to step into the ring.
Among them, at the England Boxing National Development Championships 2022 at the Spiceball Leisure Centre in Banbury, will be four boxers in the Junior Class B Under 57kg category keen to make their mark.
Regardless of whether they can progress to one day box for a world title like Savannah Marshall – the former Hartlepool Headland boxer – remains to be seen, but it is nevertheless a great chance for them to showcase their skills at one of the busiest national tournaments on the amateur boxing calendar.
Aston’s Isabel Homer (pictured) is hoping to follow in the footsteps of other girls and women from her club who have shone on the national stage, including Ileana Ingram, Zaynah Casserly and Neve Wright.
She has benefited from training regularly with them and other members of the FLAG squad – now led by Miriam Zouhou – that brings together female talent from across the Midlands to train under one roof at the Birmingham club.
“She’s looking forward to the Championships quite a lot because she has been training hard and, like a lot of the girls, has had to wait to get to box,” said dad and Aston coach John.
“Banbury is not too far for us, so that helps us, not just in terms of the travelling, but also from a financial point of view.
“She’s come through in an environment where we are fortunate to have some good female boxers at the club and she has been able to see how they have developed and what they have achieved… it definitely helps.
“It’s a little bit different to where she has boxed previously at clubs shows, but it’s great to get the chance for her to be part of an event like this.”
Coach Dale Arrowsmith, who jointly coaches Roy Richardson’s boxer Freya Murphy, is desperately hoping his charge can make it through to Sunday’s Finals Day so he can be there to support – because he won’t be able to attend on Saturday.
As a professional boxer, he has his own fight to contest in Oldham, but will hope to have cause to make a dash down to Banbury on Sunday morning.
He said: “It’s very unfortunate timing, but I can’t be in two places at once and Freya understands that I have to earn my living.
“But I will be hoping she can make it through so I can be there to support on Sunday because I get a lot of enjoyment out of coaching Freya and other boxers.
“She has been boxing for us for about four years now – she initially learned to box under my granddad Roy, who ran the club for 40 years before his death last December.
“It would be great to have some success at the Championships in his memory. He would be delighted to see Freya boxing in this.”
Leigh Park boxer Grace Clucas (pictured) is bidding to become the club’s first national champion in more than 20 years, with Tony Oakey having been the last, at elite heavyweight level.
She is one of a number of talented boxers to have emerged from the Havant-based club since coach Billy Bessey took over its running two years ago.
“Grace started with our kids’ fitness club and we didn’t necessarily think she would box competitively at first, but she has really come good.
Her attitude is really good and she is one of the toughest in the gym. She’s had two bouts and won them both, so she’s hoping to do well in this.
“It’s good to see boxers from the club challenging in national championships again. We have tried to change the environment at the club and make it more of a team mentality, where everyone is looking out for each other and we now have team captains.”
Completing the semi-final line-up is Etiene Maskell-Harwood (pictured top) who has ambitions of one day emulating her cousin, Commonwealth Games silver medallist Demie-Jade Resztan, in making it onto the GB squad.
She brings with her experience from competing in Muay Thai fights, but this will be her first amateur boxing bout on the big stage.
“Etiene has had a few different bouts lined up but they have had to be cancelled because of getting Covid or for one reason or another… she’s not had the best of luck,” said coach Billy Long.
“But she can definitely box and has some decent power in her backhand, so we are looking forward to seeing what she can do.
“She has dreams of one day boxing for England and then GB like her cousin, and, while she is still raw, she has some ability and whatever happens, it is going to be a great experience for her.
“Some boxers have to work very hard and wait a long time to get to this stage of a competition, so we have explained to her that it is a great opportunity to box on this stage first up – and hopefully it’s an opportunity she can grab with both hands.
“We are very proud that she has not shied away from the challenge, even though she may be coming up against some boxers who are more experienced than she is at the moment.”