Lilyella Craw-Seaman: “I like to entertain, and if I hit you, it’s going to hurt.”
By Tom Quinton
The phrase ‘throwing yourself in at the deep end’ can be taken quite literally when talking about Lilyella Craw-Seaman who’s journey to the professional game has been far less than conventional.
The former team Scotland swimmer who left the sport in her late teens has opted for a career on drier land and is looking to better the successes she found in the water as she steps into the ring for a second time as a pro.
Whilst such a change from swimming to boxing may not be your typical route and with limited amateur experience behind her, the self-confessed’ big hitting’ super-welterweight told FightPost she isn’t looking to waste any time.
“Coming through the amateurs here in Scotland as a female I wouldn’t say is tough but it’s restricted in terms of opponents. I was thrown in at the deep end (excuse the pun), my first amateur fight was in the Scottish Elite Final against a women who’s been about a 10 time champion.
“I lost the fight and was heartbroken but you take and learn so much from these experiences it was a really close fight. After that I promised myself this is it and I would work so hard to get somewhere. I had about another 5 amateur fights, won them all, learnt everything I could for my ability at that time, I was a very good novice let’s say.”
As for many people, COVID times played a big part in the decision that came next. With Olympic aspirations seeming unlikely and more time spent out the ring, the desiring that had been building up to this point was fading.
“I was on the verge of making all the good things happen, pushing for Team Scotland and getting myself to the Olympics, it was in my heart to get there. I was young, only 21 at the time, I had plenty of time to get there.”
But two years is a long time to stand still and although with time on her side the decision was made to turn pro, a move in which Craw-Seaman believes suits her own style and saw success in her first outing last month.
Debuting last month on her Scottish stablemates Hannah Rankin’s successful World Title fight card, Craw-Seaman got a taste for what the boxing life offers as she travelled down to London and fight inside in the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
“The whole experience was electric, it brought everything to light and to see Hannah win a World Title has just added to the desire to get there myself. As far as debuts go I couldn’t have asked for much more.
“We deliberately picked a good opponent, she was tough. I’m a big puncher but it was much more than just getting in there and getting her out of there. There is much more to come, getting out again so soon is great for me, I’ve got a lot more to show than I did.”
That chance comes again this weekend when Craw-Seaman travels ‘home’ to her childhood county of Norfolk where she will face Hungarian Klaudia Vigh at the Norfolk Showground.
“When I heard about the show being in Norwich I told my team (Kynoch boxing) I wanted to fight on it and they’ve made it happen, it’s great I can fight there, I’m a Norwich City fan so I hope I can bring plenty of support.”
Training under the close eye of Scotland’s former World Title Challenger Gary Jacobs, Craw-Seaman is hoping that her style shines through in her latest outing with current middleweight champion Savannah Marshall someone she is looking to emulate.
“I hit hard, I know I do. We have been training to fight like her (Savannah Marshall). We want to fight like a man. It’s not a sexist comment but that’s how we see it and it’s what we want to do. I want to get her out of there, I like to entertain, and if I hit you, it’s going to hurt.
“We’ve just gone back to the basics in this camp, lots of head movement. I’m a quick learner, I’ve been working on things on the pads then I’ve been able to use them in sparring without really realising. It’s been a good camp. I’m confident.”
And the confidence is there to see when the former Royal Wolverhampton School ‘straight ‘A’ student’ speaks about her ambitions in the sport.
“I want to be World Champion. But I know I’m still young and there is a journey to get there. I want to be busy to get the experience a lot of these girls have from the amateurs which I don’t.
“It would have been much harder for me to transition into the sport if I didn’t have the swimming background behind me. I was at an elite level and I know what it takes to get there. Getting up at 5am to train, running in the pouring rain, the dieting, I’ve already experienced all that.
“The mind-set is one thing that I’ve had installed from me at a young age. I swam a mile on my back when I just two years old. I wouldn’t have picked up things and became as good as I am so quickly without swimming.”
Craw-Seaman has certainly come a long way since taking a break from swimming at 17 to focus on her school work and move to Glasgow to be closer to family as she spoke fondly about how one boxercise class reignited her athletic instincts as she found a new ‘obsession.’
“I’d never even put on a pair of gloves before and after one class I loved it. I got into the White Collar stuff though some family, we trained for a fight and I just became obsessed. It was nuts.
“I smashed the girl, there was blood coming out her mouth, I felt really bad but that was it. I had a few more fights then was advised to turn amateur”.
By her own admission she was soon brought back down to earth after ‘being stripped everything I thought I had and knew’ and that’s when Craw-Seaman ‘started to learn how to box.’
“I have absolutely loved learning a new sport, being coached from a young age has made me a sponge when it comes to learning, I can take a lot on board and respond well to it, it’s like being a kid again.”
At just 23 years old time is on Lilyella’s side to go far in the sport. If the talent can progress as quickly as her athletic sporting ability already has, matched with the desire and focus on her young shoulders, it will be up to Craw-Seaman to see if she can become an duel sporting champion.