Rhiannon Dixon: “I Would Fight Anybody.”
The boom in women’s boxing shows no signs of relenting, great fights, emerging stars and the remainder of the year promises more of the same. There seems to be a never-ending production line of fighters turning over ready to join the new breed of talent that looks certain to make sure this is not another false dawn for the sport.
The highly-touted Rhiannon Dixon is waiting not so patiently in line for her opportunity. ‘The Punching Pharmacist’ from Warrington has been on weight for the best part of this year, staying ready and waiting for the phone to ring with firm confirmation that her moment is coming. A year of frustration so far, hopes raised, tentative dates mentioned, the training intensifies before the disappointment that follows.
Dixon has prioritised boxing this year, reducing her hours in her day job as a pharmacist at the beginning of the year, and reduced even further with the anticipation of a fight being announced:
There are so few fight dates available at the moment due to the Covid restrictions and a lack of crowds, only a small amount of promoters are putting on shows at the moment. Costs are high, cards are few. Dixon has had hope several times of late, only to see them cruelly dashed. Fight news always seems imminent, and it is more frustrating for Dixon who did not fight in 2020 and clearly just wants to fight again as soon as possible:
“It’s just really annoying because I was supposed to be on the Dennis Hobson card with James Moorcroft at the end of May. But that fell through because of the possibility of being on another show in May as well and I might not want to box twice in a few weeks, but to be honest I wouldn’t have minded fighting that often or have something to fall back on if the other May show didn’t happen. Everyone is doing their best for me it’s just the way things are at the moment sadly”
Athletes of any description, in an ideal world, want to know when they will be competing, to prepare mentally and physically, to peak at the right moment. But many fighters in this not so perfect world, have to stay ready, hoping to land one of those incredibly rare spots on an upcoming show. Dixon is one, staying on weight for a call that hasn’t yet come.
“I’m training as though I am on the show, but it’s kind of disheartening because nobody is saying if I am definitely going to be fighting or not. April Hunter for example only got told about a week before that she was going to be on that Barcelona card last week. I don’t mind that, but I would like a bit of warning so you can get all the fight t-shirts made.”
A fighter has to sacrifice plenty, social lives put on hold, a spartan existence, a selfish one even. The mental woes of the current climate are rarely seen:
“It’s really frustrating because I have been around my fighting weight since February because I was told I might be on one of these shows. It’s been hard staying on weight because I love my food. You are then working towards a date and then nothing happens. I’m going to wait and see if anything happens this week about the other show, and if nothing happens I am going to ask Steve if he can get me on one of those other Dennis Hobson shows. I just want to fight now I am tired of waiting.”
Dixon is 2-0 as a professional, further experience by way of an unbeaten run on the White-Collar scene, every single fight she has had, she has won. But Dixon has also earned her stripes in the gym with high quality and invaluable sparring with the likes of Savannah Marshall, Chantelle Cameron and Natasha Jonas. Reports are beyond good, and Dixon isn’t bothered who she fights, she just wants an opportunity:
“I would fight anybody, so as long as they are at my weight. I can’t make super-featherweight, lightweight is my limit really. You see everyone else getting these opportunities, Shannon and Ebanie put on that amazing fight and everyone is then talking about it and I don’t want to get left behind.”
Bec Connolly is one possible opponent that springs to mind. Always willing, a crowd-pleasing style and a fighter who lets nobody down, Dixon is interested in the fight:
“I’ve mentioned Bec to Anthony, she would be a really tough opponent. She always puts up a great fight, and she is really nice and respectful and always seems grateful. I like watching her, to be honest, she always comes forward, she just wants to fight and get out there.”
The never-ending grind of the gym is problematic at the best of times, motivation retained with an end date in view. The innocence in her personality is infectious, respectful of her craft and the level-headed front line worker keeps her motivation levels high with a little help from inside her camp. The former world champion Anthony Crolla trains her, and the urge to keep impressing and improving Crolla helps without a definitive fight date:
“It was hard staying motivated at first when fight dates came and went, but then being around Anthony, James, Jake and then going to the Gallagher’s on a Friday you can’t really lose motivation. I still kind of feel I am proving myself to Anthony and be good every single session and put in 100% effort in all the time. I am still learning at the end of the day and I am just trying to absorb all the information he is giving me.”
The hook up with Crolla is still in its infancy, but the improvements are obvious, Crolla thinks he has a potential star on his hands:
“The difference in me since I started to train with Anthony is amazing, I look and feel like a completely different fighter. I used to spar and be told I have to win every second, every minute of every round because it is a fight. But Anthony says it’s more about learning, practising things we have been working on. Anthony tells me he doesn’t want me to be that kind of fighter because you won’t have a long career, he wants me to be smart. We have just been practising what we do in training, he is trying to get my footwork to be better. I just feel so much more confident.”
Dixon is chasing a place on any show with any opponent. There has been talk of a date on a Matchroom card, and when I asked Dixon if she had a message for Eddie Hearn she said:
“I know I haven’t got all the amateur medals, but I feel I have got the potential to go a long way. I’ve gone the education route and become a pharmacist. I’ve proved if you put your mind to something you can do anything in education and in sport. I am learning my boxing from the best. I feel like I am an exciting fighter to watch but I also feel I have a good story. Just give me a chance.”
Dixon hasn’t had a fight since late 2019, a date last March was cancelled in fight week due to the pandemic and the urge to fight and show her recent improvements is obvious. There are many fighters chasing crumbs, hoping and waiting that the call will come. Staying on weight for several months has in many ways, made the hunger greater. Everything about Dixon screams another possible star to the ever-growing ranks of female fighters. All she wants is the opportunity.