Ups and downs in lives of Britain's boxing babes

SPORT ON TV

THE VERY idea of mere girlies running long-distance races used to be anathema, and as for that scandalously unfeminine pole vault... People have always needed to have a few things around them to get hysterical about, and the idea of full-grown women boxing, let alone juveniles, serves as well as anything to set the whingers off.

Short Stories: Boxing Babes (Channel 4, Tuesday) dealt with the subject in such a matter-of-fact manner it was almost propagandistic: how could anyone object to such an innocuous hobby? The film followed two Welsh teenagers, Marie Leith, or "Cheesy", and her friend Marie Davies, or "Slaps". The pair fought last year in this country's first distaff bout, and we see them preparing for the first women's international, against Scotland, 10 days hence.

A veteran of four fights (and four wins), Cheesy is a remarkably down- to-earth young woman, exuding the composure of a Michael Owen as she dispenses with those namby-pamby notions that boxing is bad for girls. "I haven't had a scratch from this boxing game," she says. "Not a bruise."

The two of them got into it after persuading trainer Mike Haines to take them on at his all-boys gym. If he had any prejudices, he tossed them out of the ring straight away. And besides, he says, "Amateur boxing is not dangerous. Yes, your features might be rearranged if you're not trained properly, but no, it's not dangerous."

At the start of the film, Slaps is in trouble - she's showing "no dedication" says Haines, and indeed, she is unable to resist the more conventional delights of adolescence. Cheesy goes along as they hit the town, and even downs a beer. Slaps, though, caught on camera having a fag, clearly doesn't have her dedication. She calls Haines and tells him, "I've lost all my confidence."

Cheesy loses a warm-up bout in Balham but is unfazed, and with four days to go, Haines is pushing them both hard: Cheesy, 9st 4lb, needs to get down to bang on 9st, while Slaps, more worryingly, has 7lb to lose from her 10st 7lb frame - "or that's the last time you'll ever box," Haines tells her. Her last time may well have been and gone, in fact, as she pulls out on the eve of her fight.

On the big night up in Scotland, there's predictable controversy when some of the home club's committee voice their unease, while a sweet old doctor (he looks like Dickie Bird's grandfather) examines Cheesy with the air of someone slightly bewildered by modern times. "And you've actually fought before?" he asks her as he listens to her heart. "Five times," she tells him, matter-of-factly. "Good for you!" he says, agog.

Cheesy's beefy opponent, to whom she is giving away a few pounds, is new to the fight game, though she has kick-boxed and done tae-kwando, and as she weighs in she looks unruffled at the prospect of fighting under Queensberry rules. "It's a really horrible feeling," Cheesy says of the minutes before a fight. "Your whole body tingles." She looks a little tense as she enters the ring, but nothing too debilitating. "I don't mind losing for myself so much," she says, "but I don't want to lose for my country."

The film falls back on those hoary cliches, monochrome and slo-mo, for the few seconds of the fight we're shown (it wasn't enough - were the makers afraid that a few seconds more might turn viewers?), but the girls are taking things seriously, punching rather than slapping. Cheesy takes at least one blow full in the face but is unperturbed. After taking three good shots, she takes a count of eight and is then stopped, incredulous, as she goes back to her corner. "Absolutely diabolical," says Haines.

Though she looks calm enough, there are bitter tears after, as Haines puts his arms around her. A few minutes later, though, she is in front of the press and media, in complete control. "It was a bit pathetic, really," she says of the referee's decision. "She caught me on the gloves... and he stopped it." And later, in private, she is even more forthright - and full of commonsense.

"I've fought better people," she says as she sits in front of her bedroom mirror putting on her mascara. "Slaps is better than her. The sooner we have women refs the better. They know what we can and can't take. Men just go, `Ooh, they can't do that, that's horrible, that is.' "

Still, this teenage charmer has taken defeat in her stride. "Got to wait for next season," she says. "Then kick some butt." You get the sense that whatever she does with her life, Cheesy will make a success of it. It's completely irrelevant, but I thought you might like to know that next Tuesday's Short Stories features "an unusual romantic relationship between a transexual prostitute and a teenage rent boy."

And finally... though this column deals with television rather than radio, something has to be said. On Radio 5 Live the past week, it has been impossible to avoid teasers for "The Greatest Heavyweight Of Them All", the second part of Harry Carpenter's series The Hardest Game. In the event, as an excellent programme reached a climax, just after the "Rumble in the Jungle", Harry suddenly sputtered, then there was silence, followed by a couple of minutes of trailers for other programmes. Cut to the news and an apology, but no replay of the missing minutes. A late knock-out after being ahead on points, I think.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
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: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

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