Carly Skelly: “I Want Shannon Courtenay For The World Title.”

Carly Skelly: “I Want Shannon Courtenay For The World Title.”

By Lewie Laing

“The draw with Timlin has given me so much fire to prove I am World level, but then I want more,” says Carly Skelly, determined to right what in many people’s eyes was a wrong result when the pair met last October.

On October 9th, Liverpool’s unbeaten Carly Skelly (3-0-1) will face Ellen Simwaka, attempting for a second time to get her hands on the super-bantamweight Commonwealth title.

The first attempt against hot prospect Amy Timlin on the undercard of the Derek Chisora vs Oleksandr Usyk PPV show back in October 2020 ended in a controversial draw. FightPost had Skelly winning by two points.

It was a fight in which Skelly felt she did enough to get the win, but the judges saw otherwise, much to her dismay. That decision has not been enough to dampen the experience she gained on such a big platform and has given her plenty of encouragement, even if she felt she was fighting more than just Timlin on the night.

“You stay ready and get your chance but you’re the away fighter and it almost feels like your going up against the fighter and the judges and you are there to lose. But it was brilliant. The whole week, being in the bubble, being around the big names like Usyk and Chisora, it was all an amazing experience, it feels like all the hard work is paying off. Unfortunately, the fight got scored a draw which I don’t agree with but a lot of people got to see who I was and what I’m capable of and I take the positives from it.”

A rematch was booked immediately, for February 2021 on the undercard of David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly but was cancelled just ten days before the fight due to Timlin sustaining an injury. The disappointment was made all the worse when it was announced Timlin would instead go after the European title held by Mary Romero. Skelly instead focused on her career knowing the two will inevitably meet again.

“I know Amy is fighting in September for the European title and I have a date now in October for the Commonwealth title. Should we both win, there is no reason at all why we won’t have the rematch and unify those belts. I’m owed that rematch on a big bill and a lot of people want to see that rematch and want to see a winner.”

Fighting on such a big stage in a pandemic, when many boxers were sat on the sidelines was just another part of the boxing journey that Skelly finds herself on. She only started boxing three years ago, agreeing to a one-off charity boxing fight. She soon caught the boxing bug and became an amateur, having 20 fights and representing England. Turning pro has not been all smooth sailing for Skelly, who is a pediatric nurse at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital and a mother to two boys.

“It’s been a rollercoaster in all fairness. I turned pro and the first year so many fights fell through, trying to juggle training, selling tickets, working as a nurse, being a mum, it’s hard to find a balance. With my partner, our sons, and me all doing our own thing, we are quite like passing ships a lot of the time, it’s chaotic.”

Carly’s family all support her and have her back. She has a small team she has been with since day one, training at North Mersey ABC under the guidance of Sid Sidankey who is more like a member of the family.

“We were laughing the other day as my coach Sid, coached my partner when he was an amateur and coached our eldest son. Our youngest is training now and once he has his first bout, Sid will have coached all four of us. I’ve never seen myself anywhere else other than with Sid.”

Skelly trusts her close-knitted team of trainer Sid Sidankey and manager Paul Stevenson and she trusts them to guide her career in a sport where politics prevails over common sense and logic. The business side of the pro game is something she is always educating herself on but it is also her biggest annoyance.

“The longer I’ve been in the pro game, the more frustrating it’s been when you see the politics behind it all. I’m in the gym, I work hard, I’ve got a good attitude, and seeing people that maybe shouldn’t be getting these opportunities so soon is frustrating.

“I’m not one of those who doesn’t want to see people do well, I wish them all the best but in both women’s and men’s boxing, things need to run a lot better from top to bottom. It seems if you have a certain look about you and get views in, you get the opportunities.

“You’ve got Jane Couch, Katie Taylor, and Tasha Jonas who have done massive things for the sport, getting it to where it is, so it is disappointing to see women’s boxing becoming glamorised. It isn’t always about talent. There are fighters out there who are unbelievable, who don’t get a shot. It’s hard to watch and I’m not the only person feeling this. I’ve learned it’s not just boxing, it’s a business at the same time and I find that hard. I love the training and fighting but having to bite my tongue and let my team handle the business side of things at times.”  

The bantamweight division is hot right now in the UK with Shannon Courtenay currently holding the WBA world title, following her points win over the Australian Ebanie Bridges, who is catching the eye of the boxing world both in the ring for her displays but also on the scales for her choice of outfit. Along with the injured Rachel Ball, the above fighters are who Skelly wants to fight at some point and she relishes the chance to show it is talent and skill that matters most.

“In all fairness, Ebanie and Shannon boxed well. Bridges boxed well, she’s was an absolute fighter. But I felt it was slightly early for both to be getting a world title shot so that was quite frustrating. Since then she’s getting a lot of opportunities, maybe it’s more to do with her weigh-ins than her performance in the Courtenay fight, but she’s a businesswoman and I wish her all the best, you’ve got to take the opportunities, but I hope I get to share the ring with all of these fighters and show my talent.”

The emotions of working in a children’s hospital, doing 12 hour shifts but then switching to fighter modw are not lost on Skelly. She tries to take time off leading up to her fights to ensure her mind is fully focused. Carly does however love her job and the fact she gets to have such a positive impact on the children under her care at Alder Hey Hospital.

“I try to keep work and being a nurse separate to boxing. You can’t decide what will come in on the day, there are times it is upsetting and emotional. You can’t always switch off the emotions to what you’ve seen and experienced. But it’s nice to show the kids who come onto my ward that anything is possible. Some children will have complications in their lives and for them to see a normal mam who is a nurse, and a professional boxer fighting on TV, it helps to inspire the kids, it’s a nice feeling.”

Carly Skelly is not someone who is going to let anything stand in her way. There are clear ambitions to reach the top of women’s boxing, by any means necessary. A smaller pool of female fighters means opportunities can present themselves sooner than later and Skelly doesn’t plan on waiting around outside of boxing’s big time any longer.

“Compared to the men’s game, there are lot fewer women so we seem to be getting matched at a higher level a lot sooner. I fight for the Commonwealth title in October, then it’s onto the rematch with Amy, and after that I want Shannon Courtenay for the world title. And once I get there, to world level on the biggest stage, I will still be banging on the door because that’s not enough, I want more.”

Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

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