Boxing: The gentle touch? Not likely from Amanda

European title shot will be launch pad towards 2012

The blockbuster movie Million Dollar Baby has done the rounds and raised the profile of women's boxing, but with it come a few questions about whether it really is the sort of thing you would want your daughter or girlfriend to get up to. Amanda Coulson's mum and boyfriend have no such qualms, and today they will be cheering her on as she sets out on her quest to become the first Briton to win a title in the European Female Amateur Championships.

The blockbuster movie Million Dollar Baby has done the rounds and raised the profile of women's boxing, but with it come a few questions about whether it really is the sort of thing you would want your daughter or girlfriend to get up to. Amanda Coulson's mum and boyfriend have no such qualms, and today they will be cheering her on as she sets out on her quest to become the first Briton to win a title in the European Female Amateur Championships.

Tonsberg in Norway is a long way from Las Vegas, which hosted its first big fight exactly 50 years ago last week and was the setting for the fistic climax of the Oscar-winning performance by Hilary Swank as the ill-fated wannabe Maggie Fitzgerald. Did Coulson see the film? "Of course, and I enjoyed it even though the boxing scenes were a bit unreal," she says. "You never see punches thrown like that, but then it was a film. Yes, the ending was sad [Fitzgerald dies when her life-support machine is switched off by her manager, played by Clint Eastwood] but even so I think it gave the sport some much-needed publicity."

Coulson, a 22-year-old from Hartlepool, is equally unfazed by the reality which tragically coincided with the release of the film here, the first death of a female boxer, Becky Zerlentes, 34, who never regained consciousness after a blow to the head in Denver. "Obviously injuries and sometimes deaths happen in the sport, but hopefully this was just a one-off for women's boxing. But because it is the sport I am in and a female was involved, people are asking questions. It certainly has not put me off. I doubt if there is a sport played today where there isn't a risk, and ours is rigidly controlled, both from the medical and safety aspects."

Coulson is rated Britain's best female amateur boxer, having won 16 of her 19 bouts. She would not pretend to be another Laila Ali, who has inherited her old man's looks and a semblance of his skill but, like Laila, she has the mien more of a model than a mauler.

She admits: "Yes, I am nervous every time I get in the ring, right up until the bell goes. I think to myself, 'What the hell am I doing here?' But then it's just you and your opponent and you don't worry about anything else."

Coulson, a light-welterweight who boxes for the Hartlepool Catholic Police Community Club, travels to Norway with three other Britons: Tina O'Dell from Birmingham, Derby's Zoe Rafferty and fellow-international Nicola Adams, a perky 22-year-old Leeds dispatch clerk who says that in 15 bouts she has not even had a busted lip.

But it is on the stylish Coulson that Euro hopes are pinned. She says she first got the gumshield between her teeth as a 13-year-old. "I've always been a bit of a tomboy and liked competing in male- dominated sports, but what attracted me to boxing was when I read a report in a local newspaper about two other 13-year-olds who were to be the first females to take part in a bout in England. I thought, 'I wouldn't mind a crack at that', but I didn't really know where to start, so I thumbed through the Yellow Pages looking for a club that would take women. Finally I found one, a local boys' club that was run by the police. They welcomed me and that was it. I was hooked."

She now works for the police as a communications officer, answering 999 calls, and fits her roadwork and gym training between her shifts.

At college she studied sports science and intended going to university, but this plan was abandoned when her father died of a brain tumour four years ago. Now her mother and her boyfriend Ross, a former bodybuilder, are her biggest fans.

Fisticuffs and the fair sex have been going hand in glove for a decade or more now, but it is only recently that Britain has discovered a few hits among the Ms's. There are around 200 ladies who punch, though most are novices like Laura Saperstein, an Australian who sparred with Coulson at Crystal Palace recently. An ex-surfer and TV news reporter, Saperstein admits to a latent fascination with the fight game and argues: "The will to fight is ingrained in all of us, man or woman." She won her first novice tournament in Sweden last month and recalls: "My opening bout lasted one minute. The other girl got a standing count from a body shot, started crying and refused to come back out."

A crying game or a crying shame? Neither, says the Amateur Boxing Association's performance director, Terry Edwards: "My attitude has certainly changed. I saw my first female competition about 10 years ago, and it was a bit like 'handbags at 10 paces', but not any more. It has come on tremendously, but in this country we have been a bit behind in the evolution process.

"Now we are trying to get them some funding, and we will certainly incorporate women far more into our regular training camps at national level. One of the things we need to eliminate is the male chauvinistic attitude - you know, we like our women to be feminine. But there is no reason why they can't be and still box. Amanda proves that."

Coulson says she has no intention of becoming the next Jane Couch, Britain's leading professional, aka the Fleetwood Assassin, who once flattened a bloke in a Blackpool bar when he patted her bottom. Much as she admires Couch, she would much rather be a female Amir Khan, and win an Olympic medal.

After the Europeans she will box in the ABA Female Championships at Aldershot on 20 May, and later hopes to be in Beijing in 2008, when women's boxing will be an exhibition sport. "In 2012 it could be the real McCoy and, fingers crossed, I would love to box in those Games, especially if they are in London." It wasn't so long ago that a woman's place in the boxing ring was pouting, not clouting, parading with the round cards. You've come a long way, Million Dollar Baby.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower