Nicola Adams was the first female boxer to represent England and she expects to do well in the European championships in Rotterdam for Great Britain. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
When women’s boxing makes its first competitive appearance at an Olympic Games next summer, Nicola Adams will have more reason than most to feel a sense of pride.
During her 16 years as a fighter Adams has heard all the arguments about why women should not be allowed to practise the noble art and experienced first-hand the low priority attached to her sport by boxing authorities more concerned with the wellbeing and success of their maleÂ fighters.
The International Olympic Committee’s decision to give women’s boxing a spot at the London Games has forced a welcome rethink. Now, the British Amateur Boxing Association has its own programme for elite female boxers, where they train alongside their male counterparts at the English Institute of Sport inÂ Sheffield.
Adams, who became the first female boxer to represent England, in 2001, has been around throughout this transition from ramshackle to respectable and, having previously been a vocal critic of the female fighters’ substandard treatment, the 28-year-old is now delighted to be part of such a thorough and supportive infrastructure.
“Since we’ve been with Team GB there has been a massive improvement,” she says. “I remember the days when we used to go abroad with one coach, but we now get all the help we need from within our own country. Before, we’d have to borrow physios from other countries.
“Nowadays if you get an injury, you know there’s a physio, you know there’s a doctor. We’ve even got a strength and conditioning coach if we want to work on certain areas, or if we’re struggling to focus then we’ve got a sports psychologist we can talk to.
“It’s a perfect environment for us to work in and you can see that with the girls’ performances. We’re holding our own against the best in the world and that stands us in good stead before the Olympics.”
The prospects for Adams and her team-mates at London 2012 look promising. Four members of the GB squad have won medals at important international tournaments in the past 14 months, and all six boxers heading to the European championships in Rotterdam â€“ which start on Monday â€“ have realistic aspirations of adding to the medal tally.
For Adams, though, finishing well in the Netherlands is an expectation rather than an aspiration. The Leeds flyweight is widely considered to be the most gifted of Britain’s pool of talent, with her accomplishments already marking her out as one of the world’s leading fighters. A silver medallist at the 2008 and 2010 world championships, she won her first major tournament in June by taking gold at the European Union championships in Poland, defeating the home favourite Karolina Michalczuk, twice a world champion, in a tense final to secure her title as the continent’s best.
The victory meant she was installed as one of boxing’s brightest hopes for next summer, a billing that will be strengthened should she repeat this triumph in Rotterdam. While there is still nine months of hard preparation to negotiate, Adams remains hopeful that she can claim one of female boxing’s inaugural Olympic medals.
“I’ve improved massively. My technique’s got better, I’ve got quicker, sharper, stronger. Everything is going the way it should be and I’m expecting to be even better by the time the Olympics come round. I’m definitely hoping to get that gold medal. All my coaches are really confident I can do it and that gives me the belief that I can as well.
“Boxing is a hard sport, what with the training and everything, but if you’re determined and dedicated then you can achieve anything.”
The talent is certainly there. While Adams calls Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard her idols, her style owes more to the modern mastery of Floyd Mayweather Jr: technically supreme, elusive, and blessed with a natural flair for movement. Adams even makes use of switch-hitting, shifting from fighting in an orthodox stance to southpaw â€“ only the very best can claim to employ the method effectively. aptitude could yet reward her with Olympic gold.