Nicola Hopewell: “That body shot as soon as it landed, you should have heard the noise she made and I thought oh my god, what have I done.”

Nicola Hopewell: “That body shot as soon as it landed, you should have heard the noise she made and I thought oh my god, what have I done.”

I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced a virtual world tour of Zoom and phone interviews, Australia, America and elsewhere in the last year or so of captivity. The latest Zoom interview was a little closer to home, we could easily have walked to our respective houses.

Nicola Hopewell is the first female professional boxer out of our little old town in Nottinghamshire. Worksop doesn’t have a rich history in boxing, but Hopewell is on her way to changing that particular narrative.

Fighting out of the Worksop Xbox Boxing Academy under the tutelage of Cris Boyle, Hopewell extended her unbeaten record to 3-0 on Saturday in Aberdeen. A 2nd round stoppage of old foe Tasha Boyes ended that rivalry in some style. Boyes was stopped in their previous meeting last September but cited an injury as the reason for her defeat last year. The repeat win left no doubt:

“It was really good, I really enjoyed it. That body shot as soon as it landed, you should have heard the noise she made and I thought oh my god, what have I done and then when she went to the floor I just froze but that is what we go in there for. I put my whole body into it, I twisted and put full force into it, I was worried I had really hurt her, I thought she was going to be sick. They are the sort of shots you don’t recover from. After the fight, she said to me I have never taken a body shot like that before”

Hopewell was patient taking her time, but the fight had a look of when the Worksop fighter would win, not if, from fairly early on in the contest. Boyes certainly had the height and reach advantage and landed a few nice jabs in the opening round, but once Hopewell found her range there looked to be only one winner:

“I was really enjoying the fight, she was taller than me and rangy but once I found my distance I think I could have finished it a bit sooner. I think I have put the rematch to bed now. Tasha was really pushing for the rematch she was saying it was the arm injury last time, I don’t really want to be going there again.”

I spoke to Hopewell on Wednesday evening and there was still doubt even then who she would be fighting on Saturday evening. The intended opponent was the more experienced Juliette Winter, but she was unable to get in the country leaving Hopewell with little option but to go over old ground again, to her obvious frustration:

“It was a little bit frustrating because once I knew who my original opponent was supposed to be, it felt like I was getting a bit of a step up in competition. I knew with her experience it was more than likely to go the full 6 rounds. So it was frustrating having to do the rematch with Tasha so soon but there was nothing I could do it was out of my hands.”

Hopewell has been left kicking her heels in frustration since September, scheduled dates fell foul of the pandemic, but after her impressive win in Aberdeen, Hopewell is planning on making up for lost time. A return planned for July and the original opponent for Saturday the intended target:

“We have got a show on the 10th July in Colchester. It isn’t confirmed yet, but we are trying to get the fight with Juliette Winter. The show we did on Saturday was supposed to be in November, then it got moved to December, then January because of the lockdown, and then delayed again a few weeks until Saturday.”

Eleanor Coulson and Hollie Towl, teammates of Hopewell also emerged victorious in Scotland, Towl only 17, especially looking impressive. Saturday night topped off a very special week for the ‘Hurricane’ as she played host to the Australian Ebanie Bridges who has stayed in the UK since her loss to Shannon Courtenay for the world bantamweight title.

Bridges spent a few days in Worksop visiting York, Liverpool and Leeds on her whistle-stop tour of the North of England. It allowed Hopewell an opportunity to spend time with her friend, as well as gain valuable experience from the Queen of Self-Promotion. It helped the Worksop fighter take her mind off her fight and saw a side of Bridges that many don’t see, or maybe, don’t want to see:

“I couldn’t have wished for a better fight week. Ebanie came up on Tuesday. She was in the gym for my last session, Ebanie did her own thing and then watched me and she said how sharp I looked and I felt really pumped after that. We then went to York and everyone kept stopping us and saying are you Ebanie Bridges and having their photo took with Ebanie. We were saying afterwards that it was just a few minutes out of her day, but you can tell how much it means to them when they post it on social media afterwards and tagging Ebanie in and saying it had made their day. It’s a little thing to Ebanie but it means so much to them.

“We went to a gym as well for underprivileged kids and she was helping out and doing a little session with them, and then afterwards they were all having photos with Ebanie. It was really nice to see, she just loves doing things like that.”

Hopewell learned plenty during those few days last week. Bridges has built her profile up substantially over the past 12 months, and Hopewell will have learned plenty just being in her company:

“Last week I learned so much in such a short space of time, not just in boxing but in everyday life. There are things I have learned from her about how active she is on social media, sharing stuff and how to increase my exposure and then they will tune into my next fight. The support I got off her as well, texting me to see how I was, just a little things like that, that mean a lot to me. I think she is such a nice person. After the fight, I got a message from her saying how well I had done and how proud she was of me.”

Hopewell has had one of those whirlwind weeks, spending time with Bridges, even having a coffee with Natasha Jonas when they were in Liverpool, and then topping the week off with her dominating win on Saturday on the historic all female card in Aberdeen. It will be a week that will live long in the memory.

At 29, Hopewell wants to progress at some degree of speed, looking for titles when the time is right. July is the next step and if the learning fights keep coming for the remainder of the year, this time next year those titles could be a more than realistic goal.

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