Nicola Hopewell: “I’m so happy. I feel like it is a massive weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders.”
The black eye and the thick lip that greeted me over Zoom couldn’t wipe the smile off a relieved but extremely happy Nicola Hopewell. The scars of battle are a badge of honour knowing that a career that has been put on hold since October 2021 is about to enter the next stage. With finally, getting her application for a licence to box under the British Boxing Board of Control, Hopewell is ready to go. At the time of writing, the only issue is when.
The application process has dragged on for the last few months. It always seemed to be next week she would hear something definitively. But the news she craved never seemed to come. But finally, the email arrived:
“I’m so happy. I feel like it is a massive weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders.”
Week after week, a deadline passed without reward. There was always seemingly a Bank Holiday to get in the way, or the required people to sign the medical off were in meetings or had just been missed. Hopewell just wanted to know either way. There is no doubt it has been extremely stressful, thoughts of an impending rejection born out of paranoid thoughts must have been there many times. The Worksop super-flyweight just told me she wanted the process to be concluded:
“It’s been like a rollercoaster. My emotions have been up and down. I’m not a quitter, but it got to some points where I kept being told it was next week, and I thought when is it going to end. I just wanted a straight yes or no. But I think I have done pretty good motivation-wise. I’ve been working harder than ever and I don’t know where I’ve got all this motivation from.”
The email of joy came in the morning before the short 30-minute drive to Sheffield to spar with some of the elite talent on Team GB. A little accidental headbutt and a nice little right hand had caused the facial wounds visible over Zoom. But overall, the sparring session was more than worth the visit. Even with a lacking for sparring minutes, Hopewell showed her pedigree and what is to come:
“They couldn’t believe it was my first spar since March. And they said I didn’t look out of place in there. They said I can go back any time because it is good for these girls as well as me. They said the Team GB girls would benefit just as much as I would.”
Training under Gil White in nearby Dinnington and managed by Joe Elfidh, Hopewell seems in safe hands. With an emphasis on learning rather than endless pointless sparring, the open invitation to Team GB will no doubt be used frequently as the Hopewell career advances:
“They want me sparring really good amateurs or pro’s my weight. They don’t want me sparring unlicensed fighters or anything like that. They want good quality sparring for me, so when I do spar I will learn something and not just spar and I don’t get anything out of it.”
There is a myth about Hopewell, that her career consists of just a handful of fights under the BIBA banner. But the amateur career was solid enough to catch the attention of Team GB. Make no mistake, Hopewell should have had her chance in Sheffield. Another story for another day. But the resume is strong, and more than gives hope for an exciting journey in her new boxing world:
“I had 32 amateur fights, winning 23. I lost to Lisa Whiteside and Tori-Ellis Willetts in the Elite National ABA Semi-Finals. I lost in three semi-finals to Team GB girls. But I’ve beaten the likes of Maisey Rose Courtney, Nicole Goldsmith, Stevie Pitt and Jade Ashmore.”
With the nature of her sport and the lack of depth in her weight division, and the talent Hopewell possesses, the Worksop fighter will likely be moved very quickly. In the short term, the plan is to stay busy and get as much experience as possible, before looking to bigger things next year:
“I want to move quite fast. But I want a few fights to get me back into it and get some of the ring rust off because I haven’t boxed since October. But I’d like to get three fights in this year if possible.”
Despite the delay to start her professional career proper, Hopewell is still only 30 and has plenty of time to find her feet and develop toward the expected big things in 2023 and beyond. There was plenty of demand for her signature on a professional contract, but Hopewell has stayed local and where she feels most comfortable and valued. Many in the sport rate Hopewell extremely highly, and now she is in the right place in many ways, we will get to find out just how good she really is.