Boxing Dream – One Long Fight to Glasgow
By Sam Squiers
History will be made at the Commonwealth Games and before the whistle sounds in any event, three Australian women will have already written their names into their sport’s folklore.
They are boxers.
They are Shelley Watts, Kaye Scott and Kristy Harris.
They are the first females to compete at the Commonwealth Games in boxing.
And they want just one thing…gold.
Women’s fights weren’t legalised when Kaye Scott started boxing. She was 21 and at her local gym doing a boxing class when the instructor saw potential. He asked her to be part of a group that stayed back after the class to do specific boxing training. Kaye wasn’t interested at first, but after a few months of his pestering, she decided to give a session a go and was soon hooked.
Kaye joined the PCYC and after awhile was keen to test herself out in the ring.
There was just one problem. She wasn’t allowed.
“I was doing all this training and the boys around me were like ‘hey I’ve got a fight this weekend ‘ and I told my coach I was interested in a fight and he said ‘you can’t, it’s still illegal’ and I was like “Oh what?!” Kaye told Sportette before flying out to Glasgow.
Kaye didn’t have to wait forever for the rules to change in New South Wales and in 2009 fought in the first sanctioned women’s bout in the state.
The sport has come a long in such a short period of time and so too has Kaye. After narrowly missing out on selection for the London Olympics, the personal trainer was determined to earn her ticket to Glasgow. With just 3 female weight divisions – 51kg, 60kg and 75kg, Kaye was forced to bulk up from her usual 69kg to compete in the 75kg, she did and was this year crowned the Australian Champion.
But even then she wasn’t assured of a ticket to Scotland.
With 13 national champions across the men and women’s divisions, it caused another problem – there were just 11 places on the Commonwealth Games team available. Australia stuck with its women with all three earning a spot on the team.
“It’s really exciting, I’m a big advocate for women’s rights and equality and it’s nice that the girls have been introduced into it and can show the girls have just as much skill and ability as the men do.” Kaye told Sportette.
“It was nice that Australia recognised that. Two people who won national titles couldn’t be taken over and it was nice that the three women were chosen.”
And the 30 year old is out for just one type of medal.
“Gold of course, I will be happy to medal and I think that’s well in my grasp, but I’m a gold girl, I like gold.”
Shelley Watts is also one very determined woman.
“I’m not going over there for anything less than a gold medal, I’m not someone who thinks ‘ok I’ve beaten the other girls in Australia and I’ve made the team and that’s enough for me,” Shelley spoke with Sportette while training at the Australian Institute of Sport recently.
“I definitely want to go over there and shock the other Commonwealth countries and let them know Australia produces top quality boxers and I definitely want to see myself on top of the podium with a gold medal.”
It was a knee injury four years ago that turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Shelley.
“I had never ever thought about boxing, I actually played soccer at University and hurt my knee and had to have a knee reconstruction.”
“I was just getting into fitness again and I had a friend who was boxing on the amateur scene. I just starting to train with her and one thing led to another.”
Shelley started boxing just 6 months after they made it legal in NSW for women to fight and soon found herself in the ring.
But getting hit was never something that Shelley feared, instead thrived on.
“It’s an adrenalin rush more than anything – there’s only been one or two times where I’ve thought ‘Ow! That really hurt.’ It’s a bit of a rush when they do tag you, you think ‘right that’s obviously a punch that I can’t get back’ and ‘I’ve got to get more on them to win the fight’.”
“It’s definitely weird to say but I actually do enjoy being punched in the face.”
A natural fighter in the ring, it’s the courtroom Shelley also wants to succeed. The 27 year old is studying to become a criminal lawyer with just 2 units to complete on her law degree at Southern Cross University.
“Apparently I told my mum when I was 11 that I was going to be a lawyer – and I think that boxing and barrister work well together.”
Shelley’s mum is yet to watch one of her fights but will be front and centre of the big screen at the local hotel in her hometown of Laurieton, just near Port Macquarie in NSW, for her Commonwealth Games debut.
“She doesn’t like seeing me get punched, obviously proud as punch and will watch the Commonwealth Games but it’s a bit hard for her to see me get punched.”
But for both Shelley and her mum there’ll be no prouder moment when she writes her name into Commonwealth Games history.
“Honoured is definitely one of the best ways to describe the feeling heading into Glasgow. I actually had friends when the uniform came out they said “what do you think of it” and I said, “well there’s only 400 of them being made and I get to wear one and I’ll be pretty happy and honoured to put in on and wear the green and gold with pride.”
Twenty-one year old, Kristy Harris is the youngest of Australia’s women boxers and also has to pinch herself she’ll be competing at the Commonwealth Games.
“That’s the special part, it’s awesome to achieve your goal but it just makes it that little bit more exciting and special to be a part of history,” she told Sportette just days before leaving Australia.
“It’s huge. I had my first fight in 2011 and I was just 18 and if you had asked me back then this would happen I would have been ‘oh wow’, but things happen pretty quickly.”
They certainly do in Kristy’s case. She won her first opponent with a TKO in the second round, then her next bout in the first. Her winning streak continued from there and six fights later she found herself in the Australian team on her way to the World Championships.
The Victorian has been training six days a week in preparation for her debut on the biggest stage of her career.
“Here at the AIS we train 2-3 times a day. We get up and run in the morning, do track sprints or do a 5km jog and then we have a more technical session mid morning. Then in the afternoon we have more boxing specific sessions when we do sparring and pad work.”
It’s been one long battle for women’s boxing just to step into the ring but Kristy believes the sport has come far in its acceptance of female fighters.
“Some old school people don’t agree with women’s boxing but whatever, they can think that, but we’re not living in the Stone Age anymore,”
“Once people actually see you boxing and see how hard you train, then they give us more respect.”
Respect is something they have earned and well deserve but these girls want more than that, they want gold in Glasgow.