Nicola Hopewell: “I feel I am ready for the big stage.”

Nicola Hopewell: “I feel I am ready for the big stage.”

You only have to look at their respective social media accounts to realise how close Ebanie Bridges and Nicola Hopewell are. The Australian has been back in the UK over the last few weeks, and the two friends met up over the weekend to attend the Matchroom show in Liverpool.

Hopewell was treated to a VIP type experience, sitting ringside, going backstage, staying at the fighters hotel and more. I would say it would be a once in a lifetime experience, but for many reasons, it might not be. Hopewell told FightPost how much she loved the whole weekend:

“It was just the best experience. You saw that video when Ebanie and I walked into the arena. But just the experience of being in that hotel and being introduced to everyone, even the people who were doing all the filming. I met some of the DAZN and Matchroom guys, just everyone who was there. Ebanie introduced me to Eddie Hearn as well.”

There is little doubt Hopewell looks up to her friend in many ways. A friendship formed on social media, is now so much more. Bridges has got herself known in a way very few have before her. The almost perfect marketing machine, Bridges has shown everyone there are ways to get seen and heard. Hopewell has seen the size of her friend’s popularity many times this year, and she did so again in Liverpool:

“When we went to the toilets, it must have taken us 30 minutes to get there because everyone wanted a picture with Ebanie. Then some asked if they could have a picture with me, and I said, what me. Ebanie said will you stop being so shocked when someone asks you for a photo, she must have told me off about three times.”

There has been speculation and much talk, that Hopewell should leave her current boxing residence behind her and box on the shows governed by the British Board of Control. The whole Liverpool experience has certainly got the Worksop fighter dreaming of being on that type of platform:

“I just think how cool would it be to be on that stage, especially now I have been behind the scenes a little bit, everything was just so professional. Even just walking into the venue and I wasn’t even doing anything.”

Hopewell shouldn’t have been anywhere near Liverpool on December 11th. She was supposed to be headlining a card in Brighton until the entire show ended up being cancelled 48 hours before the event due to ‘Covid’ reasons. It was in many ways, a fight week from hell for Hopewell. Opponent changes, not knowing who she would be fighting or even if an opponent could be found. And then the final nail when the entire show got pulled. Hopewell was gutted that she didn’t get the opportunity to fight but equally, there were elements of relief:

“It was kind of mixed emotions because I was really excited for it at the start. But I had a few different opponents lined up and then we got the final opponent, the Italian girl. She was locked in until the Monday of fight week and then I was told she had pulled out and that is the fourth time it has happened to me. Then they were trying to find me someone else, and I was finding it all a little bit stressful.

“I then went to see Ebanie on Tuesday and Wednesday and I didn’t find out I was matched up until Wednesday afternoon when I got home. I didn’t know anything about the girl. I had a quick look and found out she was previously unlicensed and I couldn’t find much footage of her. And then on Thursday, I found the whole show had been cancelled, but it was mixed emotions like I say. I was gutted because I really wanted to box, but it was all a little bit rushed and I didn’t know anything her, so I couldn’t prepare properly for her and it was just a lot of uncertainty leading up to the fight.

“I was supposed to box for the WBF world title, then it got downgraded to an International title and then it got downgraded to no belt no title just an eliminator and in the end, I was going to fight an unlicensed girl.”

Hopewell is 6 fights into her professional journey, but she has fought the same opponent 3 times and stopped her on every occasion. The frustration is obvious, and while in part, there have been issues with opponents dropping out for varying reasons, it does also clearly highlight the problems she faces in the boxing world where Hopewell currently plies her trade:

“When the original opponent pulled out on the Monday of fight week, I said I am not boxing Tasha Boyes again, I would rather not box. I don’t want a fight where people are just saying what round will I knock her out this time because that’s all it would have been. I’d rather have a test.

“The girl I fought in Kent was a test because she kept coming at me. The opponent in Brighton was a test because she was a lot bigger than me and she kept grabbing me. So then I had to learn how to stop being grabbed and I went back to the gym to work on that. But the other fights I haven’t really been tested.”

Hopewell isn’t that much further advanced in her career than she was this time last year. There have been fights, but how many of them were beneficial for her boxing education. And will things change in another 12 months? This observer has serious doubts. Hopewell also feels her career has stalled in recent times:

“I felt I was ok and making progress. I was supposed to box for the WIBA interim world title, the WBF world title, so I felt it was all set out for me. But I feel as though I am still in the same place as I was this time last year.

“Honestly yes. I feel I should be further along than I am and have been tested a lot more and I know the pandemic hasn’t helped. But I feel the opponents are limited unless they are getting them in from overseas and then they struggle with Covid and other issues to bring them over.

“I was ok until October, but then the opponent changed late and the title got pulled. From then until the Brighton show got cancelled I have never been so frustrated and anxious about what is going to happen. You know in your head where you want to be and what you want to achieve in a certain amount of time. By December I was going to hold either the WBF world title or the interim version. I have not achieved it, it’s not down to me I have done my part but it’s down to things not going to plan.”

All the speculation and her own frustrations have only highlighted the temptation to start a new chapter in her boxing career.

Women’s boxing is growing, and that growth will only accelerate in the coming months. The recent trip to Liverpool and seeing the Matchroom bright lights won’t have gone unnoticed on a fighter who looks set for bigger things. Hopewell feels she is ready to test her skills on such a stage:

“I feel I am ready for the big stage, just to see how I am at that level, just to test me and to be able to have that opportunity. I feel as though there is a lot of people in boxing who know me and respect me but I don’t think I have got the recognition yet. I don’t want to get to 40 and think I never tried. Hopefully, next year the world is my oyster.”

Where that world is only time will tell, but I have seen fighters with far less talent box on the big shows. Trust me, Hopewell will not look out of place on such a stage.

I have expressed my opinion many times on the subject, my opinion has only hardened. Hopewell deserves better, it’s really that simple. A fighter currently on the outside looking in. Hopewell has talked about not having any regrets when she has hung up her gloves. If Hopewell doesn’t make the big jump, she will have plenty.

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