Shannon Courtenay & The New Generation of British Female Boxers
By Oliver McManus
In a culture where making the most noise and puffing your chest is the quickest way to stardom, or at least a shot at it, there are a group of female fighters going quietly about their business whilst ever-conscious that they are leaving a permanent mark within the sport.
As Katie Taylor prepares to headline a televised show on British shores in late-Autumn – and with Claressa Shields regularly doing the same in America – this is the first time in history where female boxing has been front and centre of the world media.
Of course, throughout the stuttering history of women within boxing, there has always been scope for local heroes – Nicola Adams jolted into public perception after winning Gold at the London Olympics – but the present platform provides a bona-fide opportunity to turn into superstars.
Katie Taylor’s appeal is about as broad as they come – how could it not be when the Irish community is splattered as diversely as it is – whilst Claressa Shields is occupying the “mouthpiece” position with her drive for clamour and media coverage ensuring she can’t go under the radar.
Into the small yet crowded market steps Shannon Courtenay, signed with Matchroom and eager to get involved in the thicker end of the action.
Domestically there are no shortage of hinterland and background to get enthralled with; Hannah Rankin’s journey from white collar to world title holder, all while being a professional bassoonist, is worthy of a whole new article in itself.
Courtenay has attracted some criticism in her first few months due to the calibre of her opponents but, frankly, that’s part and parcel of being a professional boxer – male or female. The Watford fighter, training with Adam Booth, has rebuked those critics with competent displays in the ring and a genuine likability outside of it.
Her story is admirable with Courtenay taking up the sport as a means to lose weight and ditch a toxic lifestyle of up to 40 cigarettes a day but she finds herself, now, in a position to inspire.
There have always been barriers to women competing in professional boxing and throughout the generations from Jane Couch to Terri Harper every woman has been a trailblazer in their own respect but the vast majority have come from that athletic background with an esteemed amateur pedigree.
The product of Finchley A.B.C, perhaps better famed for churning out heavyweight after heavyweight, as well as Islington A.B.C held her own as an amateur with a Southern Area strap to her name. She replaces the pressure of Olympic medals with the pressure of immediately being snapped up by Matchroom Boxing ensuring she’s in the limelight from the off and in a world of judgement by social media that’s as scary as it comes.
The 25 year old is part of the first tangible generation where young girls, and boys, can look up and admire a female fighter on mainstream shows with broad appeal and Courtenay’s story has all the hallmarks of a biopic.
Opportunities abound outside of boxing with the appeal of the Matchroom fighter reaching far beyond the pale of boxing – instantly marketable with a big beaming smile standing in stark contrast to her relentless aggression within the room and when she talks, you listen and you stay listening.
It’s not only Courtenay flying the flag proudly for British boxing with more professional female fighters than ever before – here’s four of the best.
The 22 year old super featherweight, managed by Stefy Bull, is another fighter finding themselves presented with opportunities on Matchroom shows and consistently she is stealing the occasion with classy performances.
Bull has done an incredible job of developing Harper with consistent challenges that have matured her far beyond her age and the IBO World and WBC International Champion is guaranteed to be the ‘next big thing’ from Yorkshire.
Having recently signed an ‘advisory deal’ with MTK Global there are an unrivalled number of opportunities available for Cameron who was most recently in action in July. That fight, for the WBC Silver title, saw Cameron negate the all-out aggression of Anisha Basheel with a patient, well-measured display; her next fight on November 9th.
A double World Amateur Championship medallist with a Silver in the flyweight division and a Bronze at featherweight, Whiteside turned professional in May having won Commonwealth Gold last year.
The level of her amateur success warrants healthy backing and it arrived in the form of Frank Warren and Sam Jones: the latter of whom is particularly eager for a showdown with Nicola Adams.
And then there is Nicola Adams, a double Olympic champion, who was promoted to WBO Champion of the World earlier this year on the basis of a technicality but Adams will defend that title on September 27th against Maria Salinas.
Adams has always been technically supreme and is the embodiment of a fighter who, if competing over three minute rounds, would have had far more stoppages on her record. Plagued by inactivity but wonderfully talented and always smiling.