Nicola Hopewell: “At the end of my career, I don’t want no regrets. If I get an opportunity to fight on a big card, then I want to take it.”
Like many, the career of Worksop’s Nicola Hopewell stalled in the pandemic. But thankfully, fights are now coming thick and fast, and Hopewell has been fortunate to have been active in recent times. Hopewell has improved to 5-0 courtesy of her recent win in Brighton against Belfast’s Cara MacLochlainn. Hopewell claimed the WBL European super-flyweight title with her latest victory, and despite the often frustrating tactics of her opponent, Hopewell was still pleased with her night’s work and going the distance for the first time in her career:
“I actually enjoyed doing the full 8 rounds. I think it was because my first three fights were really quick and people didn’t get to see me box or see what I can do. So it was good to do 6 rounds and now 8 rounds and get the experience in. But it was frustrating in another way because she was doing a lot of holding and she wouldn’t let me get stuck in like I wanted to do. But I took something away from it that I can learn from and I am glad I got the rounds in.”
In her previous fight, Hopewell came out fast clearly looking for the early stoppage, but her latest appearance showed added ring maturity with far greater patience from the opening bell, and the Worksop prospect told FightPost that this was part of the pre-fight plan:
“It was intentional to start a little slower. We had the extra two rounds to possibly do and with my opponent weighing heavier than me I didn’t want to get caught with a big shot. It was a last-minute match-up, she was already fighting on the show, her fight got cancelled as well, but she was supposed to be fighting at featherweight. She did come down in weight, but she didn’t really lose the weight as such, it was the water she had lost. So I knew she would still be a lot heavier than me on the night.”
The crowd was sparse in Brighton, which was a shame for Hopewell. Fighting late on the card resulted in the venue being virtually empty by the time Hopewell made her ring walk, but late next month things will be very different. Hopewell gets a much-needed and welcomed hometown show in Worksop. The show will undoubtedly sell out, tickets will be hard to come by and some friends will be left empty-handed and disappointed when the ticket requests start coming in. Hopewell is excited to finally be able to fight on home ground:
“I’m really looking forward to it because it is the first time I have boxed near home. I boxed in Barrow which was three hours away, then I boxed two behind closed doors shows in Aberdeen and then I boxed in Brighton. People won’t travel that far and I don’t expect them to, so selling tickets for those shows was hard. But for Worksop, it will be the total opposite I don’t think I will get enough tickets.”
The well-known Australian and multiple-time world champion Susie Q Ramadan has been mentioned as a possible opponent for Hopewell. Ramadan has proven pedigree and would be a significant test for Hopewell. Despite being keen for the fight, Hopewell understands that the current Covid world makes the fight increasingly hard to put together and the ongoing restrictions probably makes the fight not financially viable at this moment in time:
“They have said it could be two fights down the line. On the 18th December, I will be boxing for the WIBA interim world title and with her holding the WIBA world title then that should be next after my fight in December. But obviously, where Australia is at the minute with Covid and their mandatory 14-day quarantine rules it will be difficult to make that fight. So ideally it would be two fights down the line, but it depends on Covid and what is going through my mind is the expense of it.”
With her regular in-ring activity and the standard of performances, Hopewell has received many plaudits and an ongoing discussion about where her talents best lie. Hopewell currently boxes for BIBA and not on shows licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control. The conversation almost certainly won’t go away, and while Hopewell has declared she is staying put, for the time being at least, with each passing fight the conversation is likely to get louder and the temptation to switch even greater. Hopewell sees all the talk as a positive despite the obvious issues all the talk creates closer to home:
“I’m flattered if people think I am good enough to fight on the big shows. But then on the flip side, there is obviously a lot of boxing politics involved. But being with BIBA at the minute I am getting out there and getting the fights and it is building my name up and people start following me. They have also said I can box for these big titles so I have to trust them that I can.”
As Hopewell moves further into her career, two more fights are planned before the end of the year, her following is likely to increase further, and promoters outside of the BIBA bubble are almost certainly going to start showing interest when they are on the hunt for fresh talent. Sky Sports/Boxxer are moving to new ground and signing up plenty of female fighters, and that search hasn’t ended yet. Fightzone and Dennis Hobson are putting on weekly shows, and other promoters are now getting their shows up and running again, Hopewell could be in the right place at the right time. The Worksop hopeful, despite her recent pledge, is still keeping her options open:
“At the minute I am happy with BIBA. But I would like to think if there are any opportunities to box on the bigger shows then my team would support me and they would help me get there. I would like to think that they would.
“Obviously if Eddie Hearn did approach me, then that is of course on another level completely. If that did happen then me and Chris and the team would have to have a conversation. If that sort of opportunity did come I hope that they would they support me if I wanted to go in that direction.”
With a decent amateur record behind her, Hopewell has more pedigree than many other fighters who are gracing shows elsewhere in the boxing world. Despite her achievements, there is still maybe a little self-belief lacking that she is good enough to compete on the bigger stages. But that seems to be changing, Hopewell seems to be realising that her talents could take her much further than the stage she is currently on. The confidence will grow, and the praise and recognition will expand with it. Hopewell is balanced and grounded enough not to let things go to her head, and just focus on the here and now:
“I never thought I was good enough to be on the big shows. But the more fights I have the more other people are believing in me. But obviously, at the moment, I am on a different path to these girls. I am just going to take each fight as it comes.”
Hopewell is friends with Ebanie Bridges, and it is a friendship that has blossomed in the Australian’s two extended visits to the UK this year. To fight on the same card as her friend is an obvious bucket list moment for Hopewell:
“I have never been one to have a goal, to win that belt or this belt, I just want to take one fight at a time. If Cris said I am fighting for this belt, then that is my short-term target and I just set little goals like that. But now I am friends with Ebanie, it would be really special to box on a card with one of your best friends. That’s probably one of my dream goals. I don’t know if it will happen, but I would like it to.”
Hopewell recently turned 30 and is coming into her prime years as a boxer, she doesn’t want to leave the sport with opportunities wasted or ignored. But she wants her own success to inspire others as well:
“At the end of my career, I don’t want no regrets. If I get an opportunity to fight on a big card, then I want to take it. Then I want to inspire people especially younger kids. I have been asked to speak at two local schools to try and inspire the kids. I think that is quite important to do things like that to try and inspire people.”
It seems inevitable that at some point in the near future the phone will indeed ring, and Hopewell will be faced with a decision that will change her future. BIBA and her coaches have and will have other fighters, but Hopewell only has one career, one chance. If that call does come, it will be a difficult decision in one way, but equally, an easy one to make.
Hopewell has seen her social media following increase dramatically in recent times, and it will no doubt keep growing in the same direction. Bridges is probably the best out there at making things happen, taking charge of her future. The Grandmaster of self-promotion, making the right moves at the right time. Make no mistake, her success is not by accident or good fortune. Hopewell will have seen. She will have learned. The interest in her career will increase further as a result. As the weeks and months tick by, the temptation to maximise will probably be too hard to resist. Hopewell if she hasn’t already, will get noticed by promoters with a bigger platform and deeper pockets.
Money isn’t everything, although boxing is a sport where the fighters truly deserve every penny they get. Why get punched in the head for less when you can get more elsewhere. But money aside, for Hopewell, it will probably come down to recognition, greater opportunities and a wider exposure for her skills. BIBA has limitations for Hopewell, and the end game is probably near in her current home.
Hopewell probably says it best herself: “At the end of my career, I don’t want no regrets.”
A fighter doesn’t want regrets when their careers have reached a natural conclusion. Hopewell has options, and many would envy her position. But as her friend would undoubtedly tell her, make the most of what you have and take control of your own destiny.
There is that dream of sharing a card with Bridges, and why shouldn’t she be allowed to dream big.
Photo Credit: Inclusive Photography