Rachel Ball: ‘I Want A World Title’
By Cameron Temple
Last week, Matchroom’s Fight Camp treated us to a fight of the year contender between Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas, as they battled it out over twelve rounds for a split decision draw.
The pay per view event on week four of Matchroom’s Fight Camp features the highly anticipated rematch between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon in the co-main event slot alongside Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin.
Sandwiched between these world title fights; Rachel Ball and Shannon Courtenay have the task of bearing the torch for women’s boxing and continuing the brilliant spectacles and highly competitive fights that have been offered since the return of the sport.
Shannon Courtenay has become the latest in a long line of women signed by Matchroom, who are leading the way in boxing, with a huge social media following and an exciting style in the ring.
Shannon’s popularity has left Rachel Ball to fill the spot of the underdog in this fight, although she believes she has been overlooked.
“I think the only reason that I’m the underdog is because people don’t know me. I’m not an underdog in terms of my talent and skills, it’s Shannon who needs to be more worried about what’s coming to her on Friday than myself.”
Rachel also suggested that fighting behind closed doors might even be beneficial for her, due to her underdog status, saying:
“I think it’s going to be better for me, because she’s more well known. We’re going to hear more of my shots landing and the judges won’t be influenced by the crowd.”
However, Rachel also admitted that she has a number of fans who will be disappointed not to be in attendance for such an important fight in her career.
“I’ve had a solid fanbase for years, because I’ve been fighting in Walsall for a long time and I’ve lived there all my life. I’ve got a very strong family of people and friends who believe in me wholeheartedly, so it’s been wonderful having their support as ever and even more so the new people who have got to know me as well.”
One of Rachel’s biggest supporters and someone who will be in attendance on Friday night is her coach, who she described as being the biggest influence in her career, saying, “he’s instilled the confidence and belief in me throughout my fight career, and I wouldn’t be in this position without him.”
The fight will be shown live on Sky Sports and many boxers making their TV debut on such a huge broadcaster might find it a daunting prospect, but for Rachel, this is exactly where she wants to be.
“I’m not letting it overwhelm me at all,” Rachel said, “because at the end of the day, I want to be on the best platform possible and on the best shows and this is it. If I get the win, I’m sure massive things will come, but I’m just focusing on the fight for now.”
Rachel will be coming into the fight in what she described as the ‘best shape of her life,’ despite the restrictions of lockdown, which she has managed to find ways around.
“I’ve just been really creative and dynamic working out at home, with the limited equipment that I’ve had. Lockdown hasn’t stopped me and I’ve kept very fit and I’ve kept my weight down, so I think it’s going to pay dividends come fight night.”
This will not be the first tough test of Rachel’s career, despite only having had six professional fights, she has also faced off against 13-0 Norwegian super featherweight Katharina Thanderz.
“I’ve had tests in my pro boxing career and that’s something that I haven’t shied away from. I’m not here just to fight journey girls and get all the glory, I’m here to fight and that’s what I believe boxers should be doing and that’s the reason we’re taking these opportunities.”
Unfortunately, in the Katharina Thanderz fight, Rachel came out second best, but as often happens, people take more from failure than success and that is certainly the case for Rachel.
“It’s hard having your first loss,” Rachel acknowledged, “but you realise afterwards that it’s done, you lost and there’s not that pressure of being unbeaten anymore. It’s given me more confidence going forward and I think I’ve earned a lot more respect in the sport, so I’ve taken a lot from it.”
Rachel has taken an unorthodox route to get to where she has in boxing, having started out as a kickboxer and then moving onto white-collar, before turning over to the professional ranks.
“It’s been difficult,” Rachel revealed, “because I wasn’t straight onto a big platform. I’ve had to do things the hard way, but I’m here now, so I want to make the best of it.”
Outside of boxing, Rachel works as a social worker for older adults and as such she does not rely on boxing financially, which makes her ambitions within the sport that much clearer.
“I want a world title, undoubtedly, that’s where I want to be in the sport. It’s about getting as much as I can out of boxing in terms of accolades and success and being a role model for others.”
While as of right now, Rachel is not quite at the world title level that she aspires to, that does not mean she has not achieved considerable success in her short professional boxing career so far, such as winning the midlands area fight of the year award for her bout with Eftychia Kathopouli.
“That has to be my career highlight. It meant everything really, because we don’t often get to go up against men in the sport, but to have two other male nominees and still win the award was brilliant.”
As for her latest fight, Matchroom boxing are the promotional outfit behind the Fight Camp shows and they have also been at the forefront of women’s boxing in recent years.
“Nowadays, there’s more of a demand to see women fighting,” Rachel said, “so Matchroom have had to keep up with the times. There’s more of a push for equality, so as a massive company they can’t really be seen to not be including women. They’ve had to rise to the occasion and I think they are delivering in terms of putting on women’s fights.”
Last week saw Matchroom played host to an incredible, high action fight featuring Terri Harper vs Natasha Jonas, which will have hugely increased the popularity and respect shown towards women’s boxing.
“Role models like Natasha and Terri are massively important.” Rachel acknowledged, “When I first started going to a boxing gym, I was the only woman there. So, it’s come a hell of a long way in quite a short period of time, but we still have got a long way to go yet, before there’s more women’s boxers and equality in terms of pay and other issues.”
“I didn’t have a boxing role model when I was younger,” Rachel continued, “because they were all men, so for me as a young girl, I didn’t look up to a man, because I didn’t want to be a man. I wanted to be me, a woman, and a successful woman at that.”
Boxing is a difficult world to break into for women given its male dominance and it’s even harder to be successful and Rachel has experienced her fair share of backlash since her introduction to the sport, but she has remained resilient.
“It’s mainly people on social media, that’s all really. You always have those idiots who want to get their two pence in and think women should be chained to the kitchen, but unfortunately for them, I’m certainly not one of those women!”
In terms of her future in the sport, Rachel is maintaining focus and refused to look too much further than her upcoming fight with Shannon Courtenay.
“If I get the win, hopefully big things will come. It’s all been such a whirlwind that I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I just need to concentrate on getting this win more than anything and then the future will take its own course.”
“So, we’ll just have to see what happens next…”
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing