Meet the pioneer women of Downend Boxing Club
TRADITIONALLY a male-dominated sport, Olympic boxing changed dramatically in 1996 when the then Amateur Boxing Association lifted the 116-year ban on women.
In recent years significantly more women have been drawn to the Olympic code of the sport, not only to compete but to officiate and coach – and Downend Boxing Club proudly boasts two ‘firsts’ for the amateur sport in the West.
Jo Turner became the first Western Counties female Official in Charge at tournaments, and is now a grade A official and level 1 coach, after initially becoming involved in the sport as secretary of the Downend club in 1997, when husband and head coach Craig persuaded her to get involved.
Jo said: “I was amazed by the differences between professional and Olympic style boxing, the camaraderie and dedication of the volunteers. I saw how the sport could be used to reach disaffected young people, and enhance their lives in a positive way, and I wanted to be part of it.
“I did meet with opposition initially. There were long-standing officials who really didn’t like the idea of women being involved, but over time they began to see me as an asset to the sport.”
Downend’s first national champion was also a female boxer. Adelaide Baker was 14 and won the title twice in consecutive years.
The club’s second national champion was 17-year-old Natalie Craig, who went on to box for England, followed two years ago by Grainne Quinn, originally from Belfast, whose grandfather had been a professional boxer and dad Charlie started the Holy Cross boxing club in Ardoyne.
Grainne came to Bristol in her teens to attend university, and never lost her love for boxing. Now a mum-of-two, she volunteers at the Downend club, qualifying as a level 2 coach and a judge before becoming the West of England’s first female referee.
The club was also pivotal in that staging of a boxing tournament at Bristol’s City Hall in January, when England faced Ireland.
Downend’s Ellouise Challenger, a three-time national champion, made her international debut and was victorious in her own city, in an emotional day for all concerned.
Ellouise, Grainne and Jo were joined with two other young hopefuls to attend the female-only Golden Girl championships in Sweden at the end of January.
Morgan Baber, 15, and 17-year-old Georgia Williams joined the team that travelled to Boras for the world-class championship.
Ellouise won her semi-final by unanimous decision against Danish boxer Anna Rasmussen, while Morgan overcame a bout of glandular fever late last year to lose a tight points decision in her final, with Georgia Williams also taking the silver in hers.
In her final Ellouise faced the massive talent of the Thai national champion Baison Manikon, losing on a 3-2 split decision.
Jo, the team manager, said: “Three silver medals against that level of international opponent is just superb.”
Head coach Craig Turner said: “Downend has now a wealth of female talent and I am delighted and proud to have them all on our team.”