WE’VE seen a lot of Commonwealth title fights, sometimes on undercards, sometimes heralding the ascent of a prospect to contender status. But some have a particular significance, especially Stacey Copeland’s bout with Mapule Ngubane for the women’s super-welterweight title this weekend.
The fight takes place in Harare on Friday (July 13), the first time this belt has been contested and the first time in decades that a Commonwealth title fight has taken place in Zimbabwe.
“I can’t really put into words what it would mean to me to win the Commonwealth title,” Copeland said. She’s visualised it “reminding myself how much I want it”. “Now that we’re here, this close to having the opportunity, I can’t really describe what it means to me,” she continued. “Especially as the Commonwealth Games [in 2014] the year after I won the European silver medal, and my weight wasn’t in it. To have to sit there and watch, when I felt I’d earned the right to be there … so to now get the chance to fight for the Commonwealth title as a pro. It’s just, a massive, massive thing to me. To do it here, in Africa would be phenomenal. I’m confident I can do it. It means everything.
“Right now it’s the biggest thing in my life.”
This is only Copeland’s fifth professional fight and a unique adventure. Copeland has travelled out with a UK team, featuring Marc Leach, Sam Antwi and Mickey Ellison. Their fight week has not only included the more typical press conference and weigh in but also visits to schools, an orphanage, where they donated a host of kit and clothing, and even a trip to an animal sanctuary. “I don’t know what we expected but they’ve been very welcoming, everybody in Zimbabwe,” Stacey said. “We’ve spent some time going around the schools, which is a fantastic experience… We did a pads demonstration and the kids were dead enthusiastic and excited, hopefully we’ve inspired some of them.
“It was great to meet them, sport’s a brilliant way to connect people.”
On Friday their attention switches fully to competition. “I’m very, very confident going into the fight. It’s been brilliant being here part of a team, because once you finish the amateurs you don’t necessarily get quite the same team feel,” Stacey said. “It’s a big night for all of us, we’ve come a very, very long way… We’ve had great camaraderie and team spirit.
“Me and the rest of the team cannot wait to get in and perform our best.”