Junior Championships 2023 preview: The Female Under 50kg Junior Open hopefuls
March 24, 2023 | by Matt Halfpenny
Part of the beauty of sport is its unpredictability, and that there are no sure-fire winners.
That’s never more so than in amateur boxing, where there are so many variables which can affect the outcome of bouts, including weight, fitness, skill, mental strength and, of course, a little bit of good fortune.
The Women’s Junior Open Under 50kg category at the England Boxing National Junior Championships 2023, however, is harder to forecast than most.
Those in contention all have a pedigree and experience to call on, but none stand out ahead of the others as a clear and overwhelming favourite.
That’s what makes sure this weekend’s bouts at the Robin Park Sport and Tennis Centre will be all the more interesting for spectators… when it boils down to it, who is going to have the edge?
As far as role models to follow, in her bid to come out on top in Wigan, Rotunda’s Jolie Murphy could hardly have better.
First to lay down a marker at the Liverpool gym for what could be achieved was Natasha Jonas, a multiple national champion and an Olympian at London 2012, when women’s boxing first appeared at the Games for the first time.
Since then she has become a professional world champion and continued to blaze a trail in the sport that has won her many plaudits and made her a well-known name beyond the boxing world, as well as in it.
Following on from her has been another top draw boxer in the shape of Olivia Holmes, who followed up her England Boxing National Amateur Championships 2021 title win with a European Under-22 Championships 2022 bronze medal and a place on the GB Boxing squad.
Murphy is one of the next female prospects to emerge form the Merseyside and Cheshire Club, and coach Stephen Jennings has high hopes for her.
“She a southpaw and has moved down from Under 52kg when she boxed at the NABGCs to Under 50kg for this, and she’s looking good in the gym,” he said.
“She’s been well blessed with sparring partners as we have another girl, Alice Melling, who boxes at the weight below and we have a Senior boxer, Keira Whitlock, who also spars with her.
“She’s quietly confident in her own ability and even though some of her opponents have had a few more bouts, we feel she can do it. We are excited to see what she can do now she has dropped down in weight.
“Natasha Jonas was the one to set the standards and then we have had Olivia, who we don’t see very much now for the good reason that she is mostly in Sheffield training with GB.
“We have always seemed to have some outstanding boxers among the women and hopefully Jolie can be the next of them as she certainly has potential.”
Standing in Murphy’s way in her semi-final is Broad Plain’s Hollie Haskins, whose ‘cheeky smile’ belies a steely determination when she steps through her ropes.
A straight A student at school – or the equivalent in today’s grading system, at least – the former Yate boxer was a winner at the NABGCs Championships before Christmas, beating Aston’s Neve Wright in her final.
Coach Dennis Stinchcombe says that boxing on the national stage in front of crowds and the live streaming cameras will not intimidate her charge.
He added: “She’s very positive in everything she does, helps out with the young ones and is a great role model around the gym.
“She’s really looking forward to these championships in Wigan – nothing fazes her – and she is going there in the best shape that she can be.
“Hollie is incredibly committed to her training. She’s had to work extremely hard to stay competitive at the level she has reached, but she has done that very well.
“She’s boxed anyone and everyone, but now she seems to be really coming into her own – all of a sudden things are starting to come together.
“Hollie has a super family there to support her as well. They are right behind her for her bouts, win or lose, but they don’t get in the way of her coaching and let us do our bit to help her as well.”
Also in the North West believing she can go all the way will be Faith Barrass from Tyne, Tees and Wear club Washington.
She has enjoyed increasing amounts of success as her career has gone on, winning the England Boxing National Development Championships 2022 in November and following that up by winning at the Golden Girls Championships early in the New Year.
Her unorthodox style has led coach Alan Brown to compare her with Karriss Artingstall during the early stages of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallist’s career.
“She’s been with us for about four years but been competing for about a year and has done well since then,” he said.
“Winning the Developments has given her a lot of confidence and she has also got a win over an Irish boxer who won a silver medal at a European Championships.
“She has been so excited to get in the ring – she really loves it – and she is really looking forward to performing at the weekend.
“She is a fit, strong girl who reminds me a bit of Karriss, how she whips her hands through and is very direct.
“Frankie Lyall (who recently won the Inter Services title and will box at this year’s England Boxing National Amateur Championships) has been training in the gym and is a great inspiration.
“Faith wants to get onto the England set-up and she knows she can do it. She has done it in the Developments and now she has to show she can perform in the bigger pond with the more experienced girls.”
Barrass’ prospective opponent Keira Henley, of Kent’s Palmarsh ABC has unfortunately had to be withdrawn because of injury.
The Southern Counties boxer dislocated her shoulder in training which has resulted in nerve damage, meaning she now has to rest to let the injury heel before stepping back into the ring.