Nicola Hopewell: Worksop & Beyond
In many ways, this Sunday will be a welcomed change for Nicola Hopewell. The opponent is unbeaten and seemingly bigger and could pose the first significant test of her career in the paid ranks. The Nigerian Mary Aina Abbey will come to Worksop looking to extinguish all the hype around her opponent.
After the near-empty arena in Brighton for her last ring appearance in September, Hopewell gets a hometown show, and the full house she deserves.
When a fighter has to sell tickets to enhance or even make her pay, a fight close to home makes perfect sense. Dragging Hopewell and her stablemates to the other end of the country makes selling enough tickets problematic at best. After Sunday, another trip to the Brighton coast is next for Hopewell in December.
If ticket sales are that important, and trust me, they are, long-distance trips, especially so near to Christmas when money is so tight, isn’t doing the fighters or their take-home pay any favours. Hopefully, after the latest trip to the land of Quadrophenia, Hopewell lands on a few more shows a little closer to home.
It is a vitally important fight for Hopewell, unbeaten in five fights, and with a rising following, the Nigerian could be the fight where we see a little more of the skills she undoubtedly has. Relatively untested so far, Sunday could be a fight where she is made to get out of first gear. Hopewell has sailed through her first five fights, the tougher tests undoubtedly will follow.
With a win on Sunday and another in December, Hopewell will see out 2021 with a 7-0 record and the new year will be where the story really starts to take shape.
Hopewell is ambitious and when I last spoke to her in September, she told me:
“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.”
Time will tell how long BIBA, her current boxing residence, will be able to keep her happy. If Hopewell keeps winning, the speculation about her future will only intensify. There is temptation already, that will not fade anytime soon.
The question is how far BIBA can grow, and the size of that growth will inevitably determine if Hopewell stays or crosses the great boxing divide. But it is also about how quickly any growth comes. At 30, Hopewell has little time to waste, her time is now.
Every case is different, Hollie Towl a stablemate of Hopewell and fellow BIBA fighter, is where she needs to be. Towl is another talented member from that same Worksop gym, but is at an age where she has more time to develop. Hopewell is a different story, her needs are a little more urgent.
Without regular mainstream coverage, BIBA will always struggle to compete with shows governed by the British Boxing Board of Control. Some may not like or agree, but in reality, it’s that simple.
Boxing News, the long-established trade paper don’t cover the BIBA shows, and neither do any of the major video outlets. It would be a shame if the fighters loyal to the brand spend their careers in relative anonymity.
I hope BIBA go on to grow further and are able to offer their fighters opportunities to fight for world and other more recognised major titles because the fighters will then have another route to get to the very top. But do they really have the financial muscle or the right connections to give their fighters what they need? I have my doubts.
Regardless of what the future holds for BIBA, Hopewell can’t afford to sit and wait. Arguably, she could be boxing elsewhere right now, learning her craft, fighting similar and even more worthwhile opponents, with a greater benefit to her career and profile.
But for now, Hopewell has to focus on the here and now. The two fights to close out the year are vital for her career. If she does remain unbeaten, 2022 could mean she has difficult choices to make. Those decisions might be uncomfortable, but they would appear to be needed.
Photo Credit: Inclusive Photography