Lisa Whiteside: “I’ll box whoever I have to box, I just want to get cracking.”
By Chandler Waller
Families and boxing do not tend to go hand in hand, it is added to the long list of sacrifices that fighters make to better their careers.
For male boxers, we often hear of how having a child has changed them as a fighter or how they spend time away at a camp missing the quality time that they could be spending with their kids.
It’s a decision that fighters have to make at the right time, not giving their best years in the sport away. Lisa Whiteside’s choice wouldn’t appear to be easy or ideal, but it shown that bringing new life to the world can give you a new lease on life:
“The weight making side of making flyweight all them years on GB had hindered my chances to have a family. It’s quite common in elite athletes that it stops your monthly cycles and such so I kinda lost the love for the sport, because I was thinking has this now caused me to not have a family? So luckily, we saw a specialist and ended up on hormone medication and then naturally in [the first] lockdown I fell pregnant and he was on his way.
“Then as soon as we got past the twentieth week, I just thought I can’t bloody wait to get back in that ring. I think it was because I knew my little man was on his way but also the fact that I wanted to do it for him as well. It’s definitely given me more motivation and I’m absolutely loving training. Back in the day, prior to little man on his way I probably wouldn’t have had the motivation because I didn’t have that drive any more, I’ve definitely got it back now!”
The benefits of exercising are used as a way of psyching ourselves up for that workout, to entice us to make that trip to the gym. However, with a child on the way, the benefits change, an improved posture, decreasing backache, relieving stress and building more stamina needed for labour and delivery. It helped Whiteside “keep on top” of things, even when with child.
“I took advice from physios and such, as long as your body is used to it and you’re not doing anything over excessive. I still ran, I still got Mick to do pads with me to a certain degree. By the end of it I was just walking and doing little exercise stuff, but yeah it’s quite good to be able to keep my fitness on top of it to a certain degree.”
For an elite athlete and decorated amateur like Lisa, it was unlikely for her to let her eye off the ball. Now moving up to bantamweight and looking to make an impressionable comeback, she opens up on the difficulties of finding an opponent willing to face her.
“I think that’s the horrible bit about the pro game – it’s more of a business than a sport at times. People just want to take the easy route rather than the best boxing the best, you need to prove that to everybody.
“I don’t want an easy route, I’ve already had this discussion with [my manager] Sam, he said you won’t be having any warm up fights or anything, you’ll be straight back in there. That’s exactly what I want.”
The name Ebanie Bridges tends to pop up when referring to women’s boxing. The undefeated Australian prospect has flaunted herself in a predominantly male market to increase her profile, which a credit to her, has worked well. Whiteside, still in search for an opponent, looks back on her own recent interaction with Bridges on social media:
“It all kicked off on Twitter, purely because me and my coach worked out if we do an eight week camp now – I’ll be firing on all cylinders. The Matchroom show on the 10th they’ve got the Ball-Courtenay 2 fight, it would’ve worked out well, I wanted to be on that [show].
“Ebanie Bridges had put on [Twitter] that she’d love to be on that show, ‘get it on Eddie’ and all this, so I put on ‘I’ll fight you then’ and then it just went boom.
“I don’t think she liked it too much. She called me weak and small and I thought hang on you’ve had four fights against nobodies, and she’s never even boxed prior to that. Who is she? Why wouldn’t you want to prove it?”
Whiteside had seen similar territory before just two years ago. After a long amateur career, she hoped that turning over would finally give her the opportunity to face Nicola Adams. Since that aspiration to have a ‘War of the Roses’, Adams has since retired and the potential bout vanished. Looking back on the fight that could’ve been, Whiteside told Fightpost:
“I think deep down we knew. She did unbelievable things in the amateur world and every credit to her but yeah I kinda knew she would never want to box me. It wouldn’t have been worth the risk for her.”
With the potential of that fight now well past its sell by date, Whiteside’s full focus has since turned to becoming a World champion, an achievement which she stresses must come sooner rather than later.
“That’s exactly why I’m doing it otherwise I wouldn’t carry on doing it. I think that’s my [way to] finish off boxing, get that world title and I’ve ticked all the boxes in the amateur game and in the pro game. I’ll always want to finish what I’ve started at the top.
“I don’t think Sam and Adam are going to be messing around, they’re going to get me in a position [for a World title shot]. However, it depends on if people avoid me.
“I’ve said bantam or super-bantam but obviously Ball-Courtenay 2 is at bantamweight. I believe Bridges is the mandatory for whoever wins that. I wouldn’t want that as my first defence, you want a good first defence but if that is it then hopefully whoever wins that, and all the best to both of the girls.”
At Fight Camp last summer, Rachel Ball upset pre-fight favourite Shannon Courtenay by unanimous decision in a fantastic advert for women’s boxing. In just a few weeks they will meet again, this time for the WBA World title. Whiteside, with a keen interest in facing the winner, gave her official breakdown ahead of the highly anticipated rematch:
“They’re both going to give it their absolute all. I think Courtenay is going to be very wary and make sure she’s got a good guard, but she finished quite strong. It depends on the tactics – you’ve got a tall, rangy girl who comes forward, she doesn’t really need to, she could play it on the back foot and pick her off.
“I think it’s going to be a 50/50 fight again, it will just be who wants it most. I think it will get into a bit of a tear up, hopefully because that’s what you want to see. I wish them both all the best, they’ve got two completely different styles that work for both of them. I think Courtenay has definitely improved, Ball has that range and speed. Let’s see what happens.”
It is a fantastic time to be a female boxer, after the huge success that 2021 showed with Courtenay-Ball, Harper-Jonas, Taylor-Persoon 2 and more, it holds high hopes for the sport in years to come. Inspired by these events last year, Whiteside is eager to get the ball rolling again.
“It had me thinking I want that and I deserve it, I’ve achieved loads and I want to prove myself like those girls have done.
“I’m hoping to get on the next lot of Matchroom shows. My managers are on it and getting it sorted, so I’ve just got to wait now. I’ll box whoever I have to box, I just want to get cracking.
“It’s lovely to think that I’ll be boxing at bantamweight or super-bantamweight. When I originally boxed [as an amateur], I was at featherweight. I won World and European medals at featherweight stopping people, so to go to bantamweight or super-bantamweight, it’s going to be more natural, obviously I’ve got my power which is going to be even better [by] not having to get down to 51kg.
“I’m definitely going to be a lot more stronger, I think I’ll enjoy it more, not make it about weight making, so yeah I’m looking forward to it.”
At 33-years-old, Lisa Whiteside wants the defining fights of her career now. Motherhood has reinvigorated her, giving her the drive she needs to make her World champion dream a reality. Her son Jensen – fittingly born on Boxing Day, has given her something else to fight for.