Sport England campaign This Girl Can aims to encourage more women to take up sport. But which one’s for you? Standard Issue is talking to different sportswomen to learn what she loves about hers. This week, Hannah Dunleavy talks to boxer Lisa Whiteside.
Lisa Whiteside is 29 and lives in Preston with her husband. She trains with GB Boxing in Sheffield and her home club is Larches and Savick.
Did you come from a sporty family?
Yes, I’ve been brought up with sport. My Dad was a footballer and runner, Mum was into her athletics. And with three brothers and a sister, who all did running and football, I was surrounded by it really.
How and when did you get involved in boxing?
My sister and I were members of a gym where they started a kickboxing class. We joined that, just for fitness, and got into Thai boxing. I did that for four years, but because of my career I stopped doing it for a while and people were going on at me, saying, “You were really good at it.” So I just Googled boxing clubs in my area and found one. That was eight years ago and I’ve never looked back.
What’s the best thing about the sport?
How much you have to put into to it; the training’s really tough. The reward is getting in that ring and the buzz you get from being in competition, having your hand raised and being the winner is what you’ve accomplished from all your hard work.
Boxing’s still an amateur sport, how have you fitted it in around work?
We’re on the Olympic programme now. But I used to be a full-time firearms police officer. I won my first two major medals (silver at the Europeans and bronze at the World Championships) and I had to train like a full-time athlete while working full-time shifts. I achieved what the full-time GB girls achieved, while working full-time.
Boxing and the police force, that’s two traditionally male areas.
Yes, there weren’t many females officers in the firearms department. But having been in boxing for years now, you can see an increase in female boxers. The 2012 Olympics definitely inspired people to walk into boxing gyms and made them realise it’s not just for men.
What advice would you give a woman who wants to start boxing?
Do what I did, Google a local boxing club. They’re so welcoming. A lot of clubs do ladies only classes if you want to start like that, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it around men. Or just go to a class where everyone just gets stuck in. It’s great for all-round fitness and you’re learning a skill as well.
A lot of people are under the impression that boxing is a dangerous sport. Is that true?
It’s shocking really because you’ll get more injuries through the likes of football or rugby. In female amateur boxing, you have headguards, gumshields, you have a referee in there to protect you so you’re not punching lumps out of each other. It’s a technical sport. And with the gym stuff, when you’re punching bags and sparring, that’s manned by the coaches and it’s well organised. You’re well looked after.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Just recently, in November, I came back from the World Championships as a silver medallist, just missing out on gold on a split decision. A lot of the GB coaches thought I won but I didn’t get the decision. But what an amazing achievement to become world silver medallist, which ranks me third in the world at the Olympic weight of 51kg. My big competition is Nicola Adams, the Olympic gold medallist, but they sent me to the World’s, so I’ve put a bit of a mark down of what I can achieve. Regarding selection for 2016 Olympics, it’ll be down to performance this year – who does better – and we’ll go from there.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?
Probably from my Dad. He always said, enjoy what do, but never have any regrets – always leave it in the gym. Try your hardest and it’ll turn out good. The main thing, he said, was you’ve got to enjoy it, because you sacrifice so much for it.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
It’s going to be my Dad again. I’d never say that I was always a big boxing fan – I loved Ricky Hatton, his style, his charisma, everything about him in the boxing ring was amazing. But my number one fan with boxing was my Dad. I lost him and year and half ago to cancer and that’s why he’s been my inspiration because he was fighting his fight while I was fighting mine. I was always doing it for my Dad and I still am now.
When you’re not playing and training, what else do you like to do?
Last year I think I did 40 flights, so I was out of the country for most of the year. So, I spend time with my family, my husband, I have lots of nieces and nephews, sister and my brothers, most importantly, my Mum. They’re very understanding, because a lot of time I had to sacrifice for weight making or I’m at a camp, so we try to spend the best time we can with each other.
Weight making must be a permanent issue for you?
We have certain allowances if we’re at camp – we can’t be anything above 5% over our boxing weight and then obviously when you’ve a competition you’ve got to bring your weight down to competition weight. Yes, you are sacrificing a lot of things, every day of your life really. But I won’t say I don’t have treats though. If I’ve got a competition coming up, I’m strict, I’m on it. But I might have a miniature bag of Cadbury buttons. If I’ve not got a competition coming up, I’ll have a treat night and go out for a meal.
What advice would you give to women about getting into sport in general?
It’s just such a good a thing to do and it’s not just the fitness. It’s good for de-stressing, relaxing, making new friends, socialising. That’s got to make you feel good. And if you’ve trained hard all week and you want a treat you can say well I trained hard this week and I’ll be training hard next week.
So GB boxing all get on as a team?
Yeah, GB Boxing in Sheffield is fantastic. I share a house with Sandy Ryan, who also came back from the World Championships with a silver medal. We have a trip to the pictures on a Wednesday night
Have you got a favourite boxing film?
Million Dollar Baby is a really good film.
Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.