James Lawton: Smiling assassin Nicola Adams bloodies the nose of every one of the boxing sceptics

 

The smile of Nicola Adams has been one of the trademarks of these joyous Olympics but you do not win a gold medal – and a shared experience with your life-long idol Muhammad Ali – with mere amiability.

She did it, mostly, with a series of impressively timed left-right combinations that systematically destroyed her formidable, three-time world champion Chinese opponent Ren Cancan.

Afterwards, of course, the smile returned strongly enough to cover a large tract of east London – and well it might have because she had done rather more than make history as the first woman able to hang from her neck the prize won by her inspiration Ali in the Rome Olympics 52 years ago.

She had also completed a long journey to exert her right to do that which she had always found most compelling in her Yorkshire youth.

Who knows quite how many hurts and patronising put-downs have lurked below the surface of her fight to fulfil the ambition which in victory she declared was "the dream I've wanted all my life"? What we do know is that even now the woman boxer is – at least beyond the boundaries of the fiercely united British team – not universally approved.

Some say such a contender is intruding into a male preserve and that she is neither physically nor psychologically equipped for the job. Peevish and ungenerous though this thought may be, it is a lot better than the relatively recent claim that women who fight are merely objects of male sexual titillation.

In any event, however you tabulate these complaints, there was only one place to put them after yesterday's utterly composed performance. It was in the rubbish can reserved for stale prejudice. Perhaps out of deference to the occasion, Adams postponed her routine Ali shuffle until her hand was raised, a formality reflected by the score of 16-7.

The southpaw Ren, who had beaten Adams in their last two meetings, has a style which the great Lennox Lewis briefly contemplated yesterday before declaring it "weird". However, in the not hugely peopled ranks of women's boxing – the numbers may now sharply rise in Britain after the Adams breakthrough – Ren has developed a formidable reputation for the compiling of points while avoiding much contact with the gloves of opponents.

Lewis certainly agreed that she was hard to hit, which was something which coloured his praise for the way Adams picked her moments and exploited them with such sharp force.

Breaking point for Ren came in the second round when Adams landed a left and then an exuberant right for a vital knockdown. Adams had absolute authority now and it would have taken a lot more than a gum-shield to have contained the spread of that grin that was so visible in the days and the hours before yesterday's final.

"I'm taking this medal back to Leeds because it belongs as much to all those people who've given their support as it does to me," she said.

Certainly one imprint belongs to Ali. "When I was a kid I spent so much time watching him when the old fights were re-run. He delighted me so much with his skill and his personality and the way he affected people. I said: 'I want to be like him'."

Either side of the gender line, ambition can hardly have arrived more weightily but if no one fights like Ali, at least some of his spirit and nature and love of the fight and the show can be reproduced to varying degrees.

Yesterday, if Adams had been any happier or more comfortable in her environment there would have been a danger that she might burst. In a way, she did – she erupted into the performance for which she had devoted so much of her life.

She has other ambitions, including one to be a TV actress after numerous shifts as an extra on such soap operas as Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

But there has never been much doubt about the one that rests closest to her heart. Yesterday she found its perfect expression. We do not know how many young girls will now be inspired to go to their local gym and work the bags and swing the ropes and brave all that rough, macho lore that goes on in such places. But we can guess it will be more than ever before because they have just seen Nicola Adams do, triumphantly, that thing which she has always wanted to.

Adams fought the fight of her life yesterday – and she also justified that old decision to go where she was not at first rapturously welcomed. No one could've better represented her country or her sex. She made boxing history, certainly, but she also delivered a fine one-two on behalf of personal freedom.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



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

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

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat