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Lisa Whiteside wants the boxing to do the talking. That’s not too much to ask

Lisa Whiteside
Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Ability, not social media following, should dictate who gets to fight for a world title. Lisa Whiteside speaks to John Dennen

JUST five weeks after having a baby, Lisa Whiteside started training again. “Nothing at all strenuous and just built it up gradually and gradually. You know what, it’s a strange thing, I feel a lot stronger, a lot fitter,” she said. “I just hope I’ve got that mum-strength now!”

Whiteside has had three professional bouts but in a glittering 140-bout amateur career represented GB for years, won the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a World championships silver medal, a European silver and other accolades. She can box at bantam or super-bantamweight and is ready now to go into serious pro fights.

“You see the levels of who we come up against in the amateurs. At the Worlds you’re boxing the Russian, then the American, Kazakhstan, you’re not going to get better experience, a better range of boxers but to a high level. As an amateur international or even domestically, you don’t box journeymen or journey-women. You just increase your ability and your experience,” she said. “My first fight back could be a 10-rounder and I’m happy with that. I don’t want to fight a four or six-rounder against a journeywoman.

“I’m happy to jump in at the deep end and box some decent girls and just go for it.”

But the uncertainty of opportunity available in women’s professional boxing worries her. That side of the sport is developing, there are some chances to get on televised shows. But it’s frustrating for Whiteside to see less accomplished boxers get to fight for world titles.

“You’ve got to wait for your time,” she reflected, but added, “My personal opinion in that the Shannon Courtenay-Ebanie Bridges title fight, I don’t believe that should have been a world [WBA] title fight. It wasn’t the correct level. It was a very good fight for people to watch, non-boxing knowledge. People watching that fight are seeing a good scrap, aren’t they?”

Whiteside is confident of handily beating either of them. “No disrespect to the girls because if they’re given that opportunity you’re going to take it with both hands aren’t you? Shannon Courtenay is now a world [WBA] champion. It’s just who will Eddie [Hearn, the promoter] get for her to defend against. Rachel Ball’s the next one, rightly so because she was really poorly with Covid,” Lisa said. “Will I ever get given the opportunity? I don’t know.”

“Why did that occur, that fight and why are people giving them opportunities?” she continued. “The thing I have found which I can’t say that I really agree with is that some females are being given opportunities purely because of their social media following rather than their boxing ability. You don’t get that in the men, bar the YouTube fights, whatever’s going on there.”

Social media is a platform that Whiteside is increasingly uncomfortable with being on. Her comments on that Courtenay-Bridges title fight got her “pure abuse” on Twitter. “I don’t particularly enjoy that side of it. I enjoy boxing, I enjoy competing,” Whiteside said. “It’s not something I really get into.

“Let me talk in the ring like I have done in my amateur career.”

“On Twitter, they say I’m nothing, nobody. Who are you? That’s what Ebanie Bridges puts on,” Lisa noted. “I was like what, you’ve not done anything.”

Of course it’s the random, often anonymous accounts on social media that post the most corrosive comments. “Social media can cause me utter anxiety. I hate it. Because I’ve always, always cared what people think of me. I’ve always worked my arse off. I’ve always cared for people and done loads for anyone and anything and then when you get these people saying horrible things or making derogatory comments, I’m not going to lie, it does get to me. People say you shouldn’t let it get to you, they’re just trolls. It’s my personality. To the point where I’m not going to get in deep with it because why should I then get worked up and feel anxious because of stupid social media. It’s just gone a bit silly, hasn’t it?” Lisa said. “If that ends up being detrimental to my pro boxing career then so be it.”

Whiteside, who has been setting up her own community club over the course the pandemic shutdowns, should have the style for professional competition. She was a heavy puncher even as an amateur flyweight. “I was depleting myself down to 51kgs but I still punched hard,” she said. “I remember in the amateur game stopping a lot of people when I was boxing at 57kgs, many stoppages.

“I’m happy to share a ring with anyone, I’m not going to pick and choose. What’s the point in that? If you want to be the best, you’ve got to box the best. I just want to be given that opportunity to show my skills.”

She takes inspiration from other mums in boxing. Charley Davison for instance returned to boxing after having three kids and now occupies Lisa’s flyweight spot on the GB team. “To have three children, come back, make the weight at 51kgs and hopefully, fingers crossed, toes crossed, everything, let’s hope she qualifies for an Olympics,” Whiteside said. “Look at Tasha Jonas [who’s completed thrilling world title fights against Terri Harper and Katie Taylor]. Now look at the position she’s in.

“It just shows that you can still have a family and still follow your dreams.”

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