British promoter Frank Warren used to be a vehement opponent of women’s boxing — until Nicola Adams came along.
Warren’s stance has altered somewhat from three years ago when he stated boxing “is not a sport for women”, adding: “I don’t like women’s boxing. Never have, and never will.”
Now, the tables have turned. This weekend, Warren promotes Adams’ first professional fight against Argentina’s Virginia Noemi Carcamo in Manchester.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I would promote women’s boxing at one point, but she’s [Adams] changed my mind,” Warren told ESPN.
“She’s convinced me and I’ve seen the light. When she won the first Olympic gold medal and I would get in a cab, they would ask me about her, not Anthony Joshua [the 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist and now IBF world heavyweight champion].
“Then she won the second gold and she’s a complete crossover star, one of the biggest British sports heroes we’ve got.
“It was tough for me thinking about it but my daughter had been kicking me about it. Nicola has a fantastic personality, she’s great for British sport in general and she’s going to be really good for boxing as a whole.”
It will be the first time Warren has promoted a female fighter and the 65-year-old says interest in Adams — especially in the UK after her gold medal triumphs of 2012 and 2016 — will see more people tune in to watch boxing.
“She’s got a high profile, has had that experience of winning Olympic medals, and people who don’t usually watch boxing will hopefully be tuning in to watch her,” Warren said. “Hopefully boxing will get some new fans from it.”
Adams, 34, makes her professional bow in a four-round flyweight bout and Warren intends to keep her schedule busy.
“We want to keep her as busy as we can,” Warren added. “She will fight in Leeds on May 13 and hopefully a world title shot before not too long.”
Warren insists there is enough decent opposition in women’s boxing to keep fans following Adams, who got an OBE in January.
“One of the things that was my problem was whether there was enough depth in women’s boxing,” Warren said. “Over the years looking at women’s boxing they were very one-sided fight but that has improved over the years and hopefully there are the fights out there for Nicola.
“She’ll start as flyweight but she’s capable of going up through the divisions. The WBO world champion Nana Yoshikawa is one we’ve been talking to.”
One opponent Adams will not be facing is American Marlen Esparza, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in the same flyweight competition that the Briton won.
Esparza, who turned professional last month, is Adams’ girlfriend and the pair train alongside each other at a gym in San Fransisco under the supervision of trainer Virgil Hunter. And Adams has given herself four years to achieve her goals in the pro ranks.
“I would say the maximum would be the next four years I reckon because I’ve got other priorities,” Adams told BBC Breakfast when asked how long her career will last.
“I had to think a lot about going for the triple [going for a third Olympic gold] but decided to turn professional and hopefully become a multi-weight world champion.”
Adams, who will be fighting in the UK for the first time since 2012, believes women’s boxing has never be in a stronger position than it is now.
“Attitudes have changed immensely,” Adams said. “After the Olympics in 2012 I was so shocked and surprised Britain and the rest of the world had taken to women’s boxing and it’s just grown and grown since.
“I had a girl come up to me who had done ballet for five years but after seeing me at the Olympics she now does boxing. There are a lot more fighters coming into it [professional boxing] from the amateur ranks so I will be kept pretty busy.
“I’m going after the title holders. Ava Knight holds a couple titles so I’ll be coming after her.”
Adams is the latest Olympic gold medallist to switch from the amateur to the professional ranks following American Claressa Shields (2-0, 1 KO) and Ireland’s Katie Taylor (4-0, 2 KOs), who compete in different weight classes to Adams.
“Women’s boxing is getting stronger and stronger every year,” Taylor told the BBC World Service. “Girls need role models to look up to and it’s only going to benefit women’s boxing.”
But there is still inequality in pay in professional boxing. American Heather Hardy (19-0, 4 KOs), 35, only took up boxing seven years ago and combines a job as a personal fitness coach with being a professional boxer, as well as being a mum.
“I’m sitting at press conferences next to males who are earning $100,000 where as I’m lucky to clear $10,000 for a championship fight,” the WBC International female featherweight champion told the BBC World Service.
“In my last fight which was a championship fight I was first on the card — before they even opened the doors at the stadium and they had a boy making his pro debut up third.”