Kaye Scott: “This will be my last year as an amateur and the Commonwealth Games will be my last tournament and then I am going to have a crack at the pros.“
For Kaye Scott, it won’t be her first rodeo, but it will be her last. However, there is still excitement in her voice when, over Zoom, I congratulate her on being selected for her third and final Commonwealth Games. Birmingham will be her last tournament in the unpaid ranks before Scott joins the revolution of the professional ranks. But the Australian wants to go out on a high:
“I’m definitely going for a medal. I didn’t get a medal in my Commonwealth Games in 2014, but I got a Bronze in 2018 on the Gold Coast and this time I would love to be top of the podium so I am shooting for Gold.”
After an extended absence from the ring, Scott 37, returned in March and qualified for the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. There was ring rust, pressure of the highest order, a go big or go home type of tournament. Scott went big. It has been a difficult few years, but she calls 2022 her statement year. Qualification for the two most important tournaments of the year gives Scott that opportunity to sign out in some style. Now she is back in the boxing groove and the ring rust accumulated in recent years is now a thing of the past, medals are more than realistic. Scott told me the recent tournament success was just what she needed:
“Our Nationals was my first tournament in two years. Prior to that, it was the Olympic qualifiers back in 2020. I felt ok there were probably a few more nerves than normal with so much riding on it. It was a one-time qualifier and you had to win to get a spot on the Australian Team so there was a lot riding on that tournament. But it was just great to be back, to be honest. It definitely wasn’t my sharpest performance, there are those tiny 1% things like distance and time. It’s not off-off, it’s just not perfect. I obviously want to do well in the World Championships coming up so it was a really good reintroduction to high-quality bouts before the World Championships in Turkey.”
The unpaid ranks will be left with some regrets. Scott never managed to make her way to an Olympic Games, her final attempt was in Tokyo. The Pandemic hit the qualifying process, and a shortened version left Scott short of qualification by just one place. It was one final try before a new venture begins:
“It was gut-wrenching not getting that chance to qualify for Tokyo and it left me contemplating if I was going to retire that’s how bad it was. It was a hard time trying to digest everything to see if I wanted to carry on and forge through it. It was tough but I decided I had a lot of passion left for the sport and I still feel as though I am evolving as an athlete and I am glad I stayed on.
“This will be my last year as an amateur and the Commonwealth Games will be my last tournament and then I am going to have a crack at the pros. I’ve done everything I want to do minus the Olympics, that’s not meant to be and I want to give the pros a bit of a crack.”
With women’s boxing currently in an unprecedented boom period, Scott will have many options to launch her professional career. If Scott leaves the amateur code with more medals around her neck, the offers will be a little more lucrative. Eddie Hearn more than helped start the upward trajectory, and with fellow Australians Ebanie Bridges and Skye Nicolson already in the Matchroom stable, Scott could be the next:
“Eddie is building a little Australian stable with Ebanie and Skye, which would be a great option.”
Scott has had two recent spells training at The Institute of Sport in Sheffield alongside the talented fighters who make up Team GB. There is a world of difference in how the respective fighters are funded, a fact that is not lost on the Australian:
“Those girls are very blessed to have that. There is A, B, C and D in terms of ranking you as an athlete. They come in on a Monday and leave on a Friday and then they have the weekend to be with their family. All their meals, accommodation and physio are taken care of and they are getting paid on top of that. It just doesn’t work like that in Australia unfortunately.
“We have very simple funding, so for our higher-level elite athlete’s trips overseas are a big expense for them, when you take into account food, accommodation etc the costs add up. This trip is 5/6 weeks long, Boxing Australia pay for all that but when we are back home we don’t get paid, we are not getting a wage. There is no High-Performance programme where we all meet up and that is because of the size of our country, so we just train with our own coaches.”
Like many, Scott has to supplement her boxing career through a day job. Any side career has to be one of great flexibility, Scott seems to have found that balance:
“I do Personal Training, I actually have a University Degree to be a teacher but I don’t use that because Personal Training is so flexible. We can disappear for months on end with tournaments and camp, so most jobs unless you have a very understanding boss just won’t let you take that amount of time off.
“It’s very difficult combing the two I get very tired. For a couple of my training sessions a week I start at 5:15 in the morning so that’s 4:15 wake up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then I have to get back to Sydney to work all day and then I have to do another training session so it does get exhausting. My body is used to it now because I have been doing it for so long but I have dropped down a little and prioritised my body a little more and do minimum work but it is certainly challenging.”
The route to boxing was by chance. In a family with no history of fighting, any career in boxing was remote at best. But the sport seems to hook in the most unlikely of people. A routine keep fit class developed into something much more:
“Boxing was never in the family and it wasn’t very prominent for females at that time. I was just doing a Box-Fit class at a local gym. The instructor was a boxing coach and he used to take a proper boxing class afterwards and he used to say you punch pretty good and said I should hang back so he could teach me a few things. I said no, but after about six months I said I would try it one time and I fell in love with it straight away and it snowballed and rocketed from there.”
The change in perception of women’s boxing has only come in recent times, a shamefully slow uptake on the road to some kind of equality. Just over 10 years ago, Scott was an early victim of a prehistoric state law that nobody saw fit to change:
“I started watching some of the boys from the club when they boxed and after going to a few shows I started to think why wasn’t there any girls boxing. It was my coach who told me it was illegal for women to box in New South Wales. It blew my mind, it was around 2009 it was absolutely crazy I couldn’t make sense of it. But not long after that, the ban was lifted when women were allowed to box in the Olympics and the Government were kind of forced to lift the ban.”
There is unfinished business in boxing, the chase for medals in the amateur ranks goes on this week. Scott is in Turkey just days away from her first fight in the much delayed World Championships and then she will hope to sign out with a Gold medal in Birmingham later this year. And then a new journey begins in the professional ranks. But there are already plans being made for life after boxing:
“I want to be a firefighter. I’m actually signing up to do some training. I think I am done with the Personal Training and I want something different. I am not a desk person even though I did very well at High Scholl. My parents are always saying why don’t you use your brain. I actually started out wanting to be Doctor and I did Medical Science for a year and a half before I switched over to do Sports Science.”
Scott has seen her boxing career stagnate in the last few years through no fault of her own, but the time away hasn’t been wasted, and there seems a stronger more resolute fighter now. Sometimes when something is taken away it makes you appreciate what you have. Scott appears in a good place, and in Turkey, she could be in the right place. Leaving Turkey with a medal looks more than realistic. It might just be a question of what colour she leaves with.