An Introduction To Cherrelle Brown
By Cain Bradley
Cherrelle Brown is practically living in the gym in the buildup to her fifth professional fight, but given she once had to live full time in her boxing gym, it’s something she’s embracing.
Originally set to be on the 16th February, it has been pushed back to March whilst she overcomes illness. She comes from a decorated amateur background, winning three national titles and representing England. At 32, you would think time may be running out on her athletic prime. You wouldn’t realise it though, she keeps her body in immaculate shape with a long, sculpted frame showing someone in great physical condition.
She also notes “I don’t look 32,” and points out that her body is quite fresh given a relatively late entry to the sport. Despite that, she understands 2019 is important, telling me “2019 is my year, I want a belt. I want something.” 2018 was a tough year, but she is very used to that.
Cherrelle has had it tough throughout her life. Right now, though she seems happy, especially content to be “doing what I love, lots of people don’t get to do that.”
Cherrelle fell in love with boxing late. She only begun training at 25 and even then, her motives for taken up for the sport were somewhat questionable. She laughs when I relay to her that I’ve heard two stories about her taking up boxing and confesses “I was definitely 100%, trying to impress a girl.”
Cherrelle is openly lesbian and states it loud and proud. “It’s important for people to know that so hopefully people don’t judge me because of that.” She has reached the point in life where she can talk openly about every aspect of her life, whether positive or negative.
It has taken therapy and years of working on herself to get to that place. Once upon a time, Cherrelle had looked to kill herself. Given her new-found relationship with God, she’d probably tell us God had a bigger plan for her. Despite her work on self-improvement, Cherrelle had one of the toughest years of her life in 2018. Her best friend Sarrah passed away on the 14th October after a battle with cancer.
Her best friend Sarrah was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2016. Cherrelle points to her own naivety and selfishness as cancer was not something that’d had affected her life previously. She was shocked when the diagnosis was given but maintained that Sarrah would get through it.
Cherrelle would do what she could for Sarrah, a fundraiser in 2016 saw her shave her hair and raise £3000. She met Sarrah as a teenager in college “in the most random way.”
Since then, the two have been incredibly close, remaining “always friends, always there for each other, in any situation. I was there when she went through her first chemotherapy, her first mastectomy.” That was why it was so crushing when they fell out. It was “something really stupid, the dumbest thing.” Sarrah passed without the two ever reconciling on Sunday 14th October.
When Cherrelle looked at her phone, she had 8 missed calls and described it as “a mad day for me. I still don’t like Sundays. Hopefully that goes.” She hopes the pain goes but Cherrelle is desperate to remain an advocate for Sarrah. Her last victory was dedicated to Sarrah. This is something she wants to continue, to talk about her after every fight and keep her memory alive. She is going to Greece in April to open a women’s centre on her birthday. She is “trying to be a proper advocate.”
It was one of the lowest moments of Cherrelle’s life when she got the news. She only recalls being as low as that once in her life, when she tried to take her own life. What kept her from going through with it? “How could I do that to Sarrah’s Mum? That’s selfish! I owe it to Sarrah to look after her Mum.”
She had previously tried to take her own life as a young adult whilst feeling “alone and isolated.” A tough family relationship has left her estranged from her Mum and exposed to domestic violence. For many, the support network comes from their family. Cherrelle has only had that for a short period in her teenage years when her Step Dad was around, until that relationship ended.
She still doesn’t have a relationship with her Mum although she says at some point she will look into rekindling that. That comes off the success of rekindling with her family this past Christmas, which she described as “filling a hole in me. I have this feeling of feeling wanted.”
That lack of family support was probably why she ended up living above the Islington gym for over a year. It has built character in Cherrelle, she is a true fighter. Something she kept repeating was that she believes “when people go through a hard time and are really tested, I believe something amazing is about to happen.”
That something, will hopefully come in the boxing ring. As stated, she believes 2019 is her year to win a belt. She admits to knowing what she wants to do but acknowledges when it comes to fighting decisions, but says ultimately, it’s a decision for her manager and coach. Three of the champions are South American (Anahi Esther Sanchez, Ana Laura Esteche and Victoria Noelia Bustos) whilst Jessica McCaskill holds the other belt.
She is up for any of those fights even “if I have to travel, as long as it’s done right.” Ideally though, she wants to fight to take place in London, to fight in front of her home crowd who she describes as brilliant. She sums it up best when telling me “I’m getting to the phase of my life, I want to take a risk. I’d rather take a risk, go for it and if it doesn’t happen I’m not regretful.”
She has only had four professional fights, relatively few for a potential world title contender, but can look towards Jessica McCaskill as someone who holds a world title despite having less than 10 fights. She also took the sport up late and had a strong amateur record of 23-3. Cherrelle’s was even better at 31-5 and represented England numerous times. She won three national elite titles, a GB Championship and a Haringey Box Cup.
Her greatest moment came “when I represented England. I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel hearing the national anthem, but it was the most amazing moment for me.” She has competed against some of the bigger names in female British boxing including Chantelle Cameron – who Cherrelle thinks could shock many people if she ever shares a ring with Katie Taylor, – Rosie Eccles and Paige Murney, who both competed at the World Championships.
Paige Murney was the only British representative at the 2018 World Championships in the lightweight division, putting her in pole position for a potential Olympic spot. The plan for Cherrelle had always been to get to the Olympics, however her chosen weight of light-welterweight has not yet been included in the competition.
She did undergo GB trials in 2017 and believed they had gone really well, despite the potential weight issues. She had met with the nutritionist and the pair had discussed her healthily making the 60kg lightweight limit, led to her “really believing I was going to get onto the squad. I got the letter that told me no. It changed my life. Wow, what do I do from here?” It was one of the times she considered leaving the sport. “It was heart breaking. Luckily enough I stayed in the sport.” It was the reason why her third national triumph was arguably the sweetest, met with a jubilant celebration, as she overcame Paige Murney with the word ‘redemption’ on the waistband of her shorts. “It was redemption for myself. I went for something and didn’t get on it but maybe another path.
Redemption to show you can go through hard time in your life, that’s normal. Redemption for myself. You are good enough.” Cherrelle had struggled to even get to the trial. She had been signing on, which meant going to the job centre every two weeks. This could have caused her to miss her trial, but instead she had someone who believed in her, allowing her to attend the trial.
When I broached the subject of the 2016 World Championship, a topic that I believed may be sore, Cherrelle showed her grace and character. Sandy Ryan who had competed mainly at lightweight until then, was picked to compete at the World Championships at 64kg.
Cherrelle showed no bitterness for what could be interpreted as a controversial decision, instead saying “That is not my path. It’s not my destination, that’s Sandy’s destination.” She pointed to the death of Sarrah as something that has changed her perspective as “life is bigger than this shizzel. I believe what is meant to be is going to be. I don’t need to envy Sandy. I give her credit and respect. What’s it gonna do for me, how’s it gonna benefit me. If I’m negative about a person, that harms me, not them. She’s put females on the map. How am I going to be mad at someone who went out there and won? I gotta respect her for what she’s doing to my sport. Mutual respect for the sport. It’s not about us. It’s about paving a way. I’m proud of her and happy for her. I hope she goes to Tokyo and smashes it.”
Cherrelle finds it important to pave a way for future generations. When discussing potential domestic clashes over the coming years for her she states “I don’t look at it in what’s huge for me, but for women’s boxing. It’s a great opportunity for us all to fight each other. I’m down for that.” Cherrelle puts pressure on herself, not only in the ring, but on being a role model.
She realised how she behaves will affect future generations, describing it as bigger than herself. There are lots of things Cherrelle wants to champion and be an ambassador for. “I stand for LGBT. I stand for mental health, I stand for people who suffered from domestic violence, I represent a lot.” She feels that life is particularly tough on the youth of today. Social media has increased the pressure on children to look and act a certain way. Cherrelle wishes more people would encourage their children to be happy above all else, pointing to the example of Deepak Chopra who tells of doing the same.
Cherrelle may not be a child but it has taken her years to be happy the way she looked. She describes herself now as proudly androgynous but has received questions when using female toilets and negative comments online. It is something that affects other prominent black, female sports figures. Serena Williams has always got a lot of stick, primarily because of her athleticism. As recently as 2015, she was behind Maria Sharapova in highest earning athletes despite almost universally regarded as the better player. At some point that may have upset her but she’s become very comfortable in her skin.
She spent too long trying to fit in but now realises “I am me and I don’t want to be anything else. I want to stand up and say to people it doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress, whether your black, whether your white, your disabled, your religious.
Whatever, don’t discriminate from people being different, from being special.” She points to Abraham Lincoln, Coco Chanel and Nelson Mandela as people who didn’t follow social norms. “I’m being me, I love how I am. I’m not here to fit in but to be me. A lot of people pretend. I ain’t trying put on a mask on it, I’m trying to be Cherrelle.”
Cherrelle is embracing being herself right now. She is loving training people which she does down at Urban Kings and is constantly eager to be in the gym working with her coach Sab Leo. She is hoping to come across a title at some point this year and you feel it is only a matter of time. The girl she begun boxing to impress, a distant memory, someone who wasn’t even interested in her. Instead she’s found a true passion, a sport she excels at. Most importantly, she is happy. She told me more than once in our conversation that she was now happy and beamed her 20,000 watt smile at me. Considering where she has been, that is probably her biggest victory of all.
Cherrelle is supported by her sponsors GLL Sports, Beautiful Beauty Limited and BTC.