Hannah Baggaley: “I thrive on being manic and busy I always have to be doing something.“
Hannah Baggaley has needed a lot of patience in recent times. Fights frequently falling through, a sign of the pandemic hit times, but for an ambitious fighter, it is of little consolation or comfort. Her patience was tested again as my laptop decided to do an impromptu and highly inconvenient security update minutes before our long time coming Zoom interview was scheduled to happen. 30 minutes later than scheduled, and once my apologies were out of the way, within seconds I realised the type of fighter and person that I was speaking to.
The usual hours of research undertaken for the interview had only partially prepared me. It is only when you are face to face with someone, albeit by the new modern-day method of talking, that you realise what or who is in front of you. The passion emanates immediately, not just for boxing but for life itself. The social media accounts tell the same story, a manic type lifestyle full of drive, in truth, it is hard to keep up with, a fighter who is seemingly always on the go. Baggaley told FightPost that she wouldn’t have any other way:
“It’s been like it since I was about 17 I have never had a quiet life I am always on the go. I thrive on being manic and busy I always have to be doing something. I just don’t like wasting time. I feel if you are not doing something or aiming towards something you are just wasting valuable time in the day. My biggest fear is getting old and not having made something from my life and not making a huge footprint in boxing. So for me, every spare minute needs to be used properly.”
There are obvious similarities with the Australian powerhouse of many things Ebanie Bridges. Bridges is living proof that you can achieve virtually anything in life with a plan and hard work to execute that plan. They both seem to have a never-ending resource of energy and a desire to make the most of every single second in any given day:
“Ebanie and I have that conversation loads of times in that we both like to be busy all the time. If anything I feel more tired if I haven’t had a busy day.”
Both realise the importance of social media to build a brand and get their names out there. When you have free and many different forms of social media the amount of fighters who don’t use it is quite staggering. No accounts or inactive accounts are rife, they are free tools of marketing that are going to waste and with it opportunities. Fighters of a lost generation would have loved to have had free advertising to promote themselves, yet many don’t seem to realise or understand the importance of social media. Bridges and Baggaley do, and are incredibly active in using what is at their disposal to get seen and heard:
“We both have to be like that. We haven’t got the huge amateur exposure that some of the girls who are turning over have. The likes of Sandy Ryan and Lauren Price for example have already got a huge following people like me and Ebanie haven’t. So we have to use social media to get our names out in the public eye. Sometimes, and Ebanie is proof of this, that you end up bigger than some of the girls who have worked hard all their lives for it. And then I and Ebanie come along and within a few years, we dramatically change things.
“But there is a lot of stigma and hate around it because some people don’t like it because they see it as we haven’t earned that. But how have we not earned it, in my eyes, social media is a full-time job. I would love to go home and just switch off after training. But unfortunately, even though we work full time we have to work full time on social media as well. We have to constantly interact with people even though we are not feeling our best, we have to give back. People think we have it easy but it is so much harder than people think.”
There is some resentment when the likes of Bridges, Baggaley and others are given opportunities over fighters who have gone down the more traditional amateur route. But in a sport that’s still growing, fighters have come by different routes. Baggaley has graduated from the uncompromising world of unlicensed boxing and understands the need to use social media to advance her name. But it doesn’t come without criticism, but many fighters sit in silence and don’t learn. Envy is a vice some just can’t let go of much to the detriment of their own careers. Baggaley knows that nobody will come knocking, you have to knock the door down yourself:
“Everyone wants to get there and do it the easy way, or think it’s the easy way but they are not willing to put the work in. I’ve only started using Twitter with my new boxing account in the last year and it has taken a lot of effort to get it to 8,000 followers. It is not an easy task, it really isn’t.”
The ambition is obvious and Baggaley has given up plenty, nearly everything, in pursuit of a sport that is way beyond just a passion. A life in Australia cast aside, risking her relationship in doing so. A flourishing and potentially lucrative painting and decorating career also a victim in search of glory in an unforgiving and unpredictable sport. But Baggaley, by nature, is no gambler:
“I don’t like risk-taking at all. My friend says to me that I am such a conundrum. She says I have such an adventurous personality, but when it comes to taking risks in terms of messing up stability for me I am an absolute wimp. People don’t realise what I have given up. I literally had the best job ever. I was working for a guy who was ready to hand over his business to me when he was ready to retire. It was a well-established business he was so successful. he had lined everything up for me to be a very wealthy woman within the trade I was in.”
The early days in the life of a professional boxer were long, 16 hour days were hardly a long-term viable option. Nine months of the endless sights of bland motorway scenery, travelling from Blackpool to Manchester to train with Arnie Farnell her mentor of choice, was too much even for someone who seems to thrive on chaos. Trying to hold down her painting job alongside the rigours of training was killing the body and mind.
The costs were also mounting, her overdraft extending, Baggaley had to make a decision before she was suffocated by her own ambitions. Baggaley packed her bags and eventually settled in Manchester. It took time and around the time of her professional debut, she was between homes, perhaps not the story of a typical homeless fighter from the black and white days, but very much a typical tale in the life of Baggaley.
Baggaley is comfortable with Farnell, an instant bond was formed when she was looking for a boxing home to take her to the next level. Farnell is fine-tuning Baggaley, the work in progress obvious from footage from the old days. Night and day from what was before. Aligned with Alfie Warren, Baggaley again seems content and happy, confident she is being guided by someone who has her best interests at heart. Trust me, in boxing, that is not always the case.
A new career has started for Baggaley in Manchester and one that she seems made for. Her own school years were tough, the misunderstood ‘naughty’ teenager who was expelled from her high school and has now turned her life around seems the perfect candidate for a return to the classroom to pass on her life experiences. The similarities with the maths teacher Bridges goes on.
“I decided I needed a new job so I started hassling the school that owns the gym upstairs where I train. I said give me a job I went to a naughty school I can relate to the kids I’d be good at it. So I ended up scamming my way into a teaching job. I am a teachers assistant but I am being put through the petal qualification to go further. What I am doing now is working at a non-government funded school with children who have behavioural problems, kids who can’t cope in mainstream classes. I’m helping teach maths, English, construction and sport.”
The passion for her teaching radiates over Zoom, clearly a career she would like to take further. But boxing you sense is where she feels belongs, but she is level-headed enough to know life needs a secondary plan. At least some semblance of security:
“I would love to just be able to box but I am aware this is real life and until I am knocking on the door of world titles that’s not going to happen especially if I keep getting let down. I’ve had nine scheduled bouts and only one has happened.”
Baggaley would be excused if the multiple cancellations had affected her, but physically and mentally she seems in a good place. A fighter who is aware of the world we currently live in, and not one who feels the weight of the sport is driving her down the road to nowhere. A disappointment just brings another goal to aim for.
“It sounds weird but I kind of enjoyed it,” the perfect attitude to all the uncertainty we all now live in.
A new year brings a new start and one that promises plenty. Baggaley (1-0) finally and hopefully, gets her career up and running again in March. A rumoured link up with Frank Warren is a little more than just a rumour. After a problematic 2021, Baggaley deserves better this year. It looks highly probable this year will give Baggaley everything she craves.
You can’t help but buy into her story and wish Baggaley well in her journey. The non-gambler has put everything on the line, the ultimate sacrifice to chase personal satisfaction and more. But probably, more than anything, Baggaley has shown that there is more than one way in life. Different ways to find a way in. The conventional more established method isn’t the only option.
It is clear Baggaley loves her sport, it has given her a purpose. I’m not sure if boxing has saved her. I don’t think that is a narrative we could assign to her particular story. She had other options in life. We just have someone who just loves to fight, sometimes it’s really that simple.