Tori-Ellis Willetts: “You have the Paris Olympics in two years’ time. That’s one of my big goals, to achieve an Olympic gold medal.”

Tori-Ellis Willetts: “You have the Paris Olympics in two years’ time. That’s one of my big goals, to achieve an Olympic gold medal.”

By Chris Akers

During the interview with GB amateur boxer Tori-Ellis Willetts, one word can best sum her up – determination. From joining the Army as a gunner to attending university, there is a focus on her face as she discusses her achievements so far in the amateur code.

While achieving success as an amateur boxer, Willetts’ foray into combat sports started with different martial arts. Speaking to her from Eastside ABC in her hometown in Birmingham, she explains what sparked her love of combat sports in the first place.

“I was always a tall kid at school, so I did karate to stay disciplined. Then I followed it up and enjoyed it. It kept me out of trouble I guess.”

Initial success followed in kickboxing, where she won three English titles, two British titles and represented Great Britain as she won gold at the world championships. Yet kickboxing is not an Olympic sport and so, Willetts decided to transition to boxing.

Citing Katie Taylor as an inspiration, success has followed her to boxing. Winning gold at the Three Nations in 2017 is one title she acquired, but there are other achievements that she is even more proud of.

“Winning the National championships. That was a big step up. Becoming two-time National champion is one of my biggest achievements and also representing Great Britain on the international scene.”

Alongside this, Willetts enrolled in the army as a gunner which had a positive effect not just on winning titles, but also in improving her chances of getting into Team GB.

“I knew the army had a full-time boxing team and I knew it would be a good transition to get into full-time training before getting onto Team GB,” she explains. “They have a similar structure to the Great Britain set up, so it put me in good stead when I got trials for the Great Britain team.

“I won the Elites after four fights with the Army. Before the Army, I boxed for Eastside Boxing club in Birmingham. I won two national titles. One of them was when I was on GB, the other before I was with Great Britain.”

It is not just in the ring where Willetts has found success. She has been studying at Oxbridge, and although she has completed her course, studying and fighting at the same time has at times not always been the easiest thing to do.

“It’s been quite difficult combining the two as obvious you don’t get much time training full time. At the same time, it allowed me to focus on something else and support my career as a backup. I did a personal training Level 3 course. I was so glad to achieve while still doing what I love doing.”

July 28th will be an important date not just in Willetts’ calendar, but also for her hometown. That is the date of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. With such a big event taking place on her doorstep, it will obviously be a tournament that she will be looking to qualify for.

“100%,” she says. “I want to be representing my hometown. It’ll be the biggest thing in my career so far. It’s something I really want to push for, just to make the city proud and my family, and have their support as well.”

Willetts will be one of the favourites for gold this summer. Assuming she achieves that, what is next for the flyweight?

‘I’ll see how it goes. You have the Paris Olympics in two years’ time. That’s one of my big goals, to achieve an Olympic gold medal. We’ll see how things play out. I could potentially go to the pro scene and see what happens in that area as well.”

Whatever she decides to do next, it would not be wise to go against her adding to her medal haul and becoming a prominent force in women’s boxing in years to come.

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