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Olympic hopeful Stubley: I always wanted to prove that girls can box

Savannah Stubley wasn’t supposed to fight. It wasn’t what girls in her community were expected to do.

But inspired by Nicola Adams’ success at the London 2012, Stubley set out to box. Her brother might have gone to the Empire School of Boxing in Blyth first, but Stubley was determined to follow.

She recalled: “My mum and my dad were a bit not happy at first. There were like: ‘No you’re not going, you’re a girl. Girls don’t box.’ Because at that time there were not many girls boxing. There was no one really about.”

THE 'WORLD BOXING CUP: GB OPEN, SHEFFIELD 2024' IS AN INTERNATIONAL BOXING COMPETITION AT THE ENGLISH INSTITUTE OF SPORT SHEFFIELD...MORE THAN 90 BOXERS FROM 15 COUNTRIES WILL TAKE PART IN THE EVENT WHICH IS ONLY THE FOURTH ELITE, MULTI-NATION, OLYMPIC BOXING STYLE BOXING COMPETITION TO BE HELD IN GREAT BRITAIN SINCE LONDON 2012...IT IS A NEW ADDITION TO THE ELITE INTERNATIONAL BOXING CALENDAR AND WILL BE PART OF THE WORLD BOXING CUP SERIES DEVELOPED BY WORLD BOXING, THE NEW INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION WHICH HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED TO ENSURE BOXING REMAINS AT THE HEART OF THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT...THE WORLD BOXING CUP IS A NEW FORMAT IN WHICH MALE AND FEMALE BOXERS ACCRUE RANKING POINTS OVER SEVERAL STAGES OF COMPETITION THROUGHOUT THE CALENDAR YEAR AND CULMINATES IN A YEAR-END FINALS EVENT WHEN THE STAGE WINNERS AND OTHER TOP-RANKED BOXERS COMPETE FOR THE WORLD BOXING CUP TROPHY...THE EVENT IN SHEFFIELD WILL BE THE FIRST EVENT OF THE WORLD BOXING CUP 2024 SERIES AND FEATURES SEVEN MEN'S WEIGHT CATEGORIES AND SIX FOR WOMEN, THE SAME AS THOSE THAT WILL BE USED AT THE PARIS 2024 OLYMPIC GAMES.
Image: The next Olympic qualification tournament will run from March 3-11 in Milan, Italy

She however persisted. “My mum and dad were like: ‘Oh just leave her then, it’ll only last a few days’. I was seven at the time and I’ve just stuck to it since. I’ve been with the same club, the same coaches, the same team.

“When I first started I was the only girl in the gym. There were a load of boys and then there was me. But they all treated me like family in there. We’re like a family club. Everyone gets along with everyone. So they just took me under their wing. I used to spar the boys.”

Her coach recognised her potential, even at that early age. “I think he’s seen that I was just a feisty little girl who just loved to train and loved to hit somebody. As a kid I was always fighting so I think he’s just seen that I had the heart,” Stubley said.

“My coach was like: ‘I can make a champ out of her’.”

Her family would adapt their whole way of life to make her dream possible.

“I am a Traveller, I’m a gypsy, so I used to move up and down all the time,” she explained.

“I had to change my full lifestyle. He [her coach] brought my mum and dad in and said: ‘Look we can make Savannah a champ but you have to let her come to the gym often and you’ll probably not be able to move up and down as much.’

“And that’s what we done. We stopped. We stopped in the same spot and we just kept going to the gym and I’ve just trained ever since.

“[They did it] just to support me. We took trust in our coach because he said he was going to make a champ out of me and he did.”

Stubley has won the top 50kgs spot on the GB squad (Photos: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)
Image: Stubley has won the top 50kgs spot on the GB squad (Photos: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)

Stubley always had a point to prove.

“There’s not many Travelling girls out there that box. There’s about a handful of them,” Stubley said. “I just want to show that girls, Travelling girls, any girl that wants to do it, she can do it, she can box.”

Now she literally is following Nicola Adams’ footsteps. She has been selected to represent GB in the flyweight spot, which Adams used to occupy, for the upcoming Olympic qualification event that runs in Milan, Italy from March 3-11.

If she does qualify for Paris 2024, she says: “It’ll be a dream come true. Since seeing Nicola Adams in the 2012 Olympics, it just changed everything, I just wanted to be like her.

“Just wanted to prove that girls can box.”

Mentored by DeGale

A rising boxer also on the GB team for the qualification event is light-welterweight Patris Mughalzai.

A young Londoner, who won selection in a highly competitive division, Mughalzai has the ideal mentor for the qualifier. Olympic gold medallist, and professional world champion, James DeGale has been helping Mughalzai with his training.

THE 'WORLD BOXING CUP: GB OPEN, SHEFFIELD 2024' IS AN INTERNATIONAL BOXING COMPETITION AT THE ENGLISH INSTITUTE OF SPORT SHEFFIELD...MORE THAN 90 BOXERS FROM 15 COUNTRIES WILL TAKE PART IN THE EVENT WHICH IS ONLY THE FOURTH ELITE, MULTI-NATION, OLYMPIC BOXING STYLE BOXING COMPETITION TO BE HELD IN GREAT BRITAIN SINCE LONDON 2012...IT IS A NEW ADDITION TO THE ELITE INTERNATIONAL BOXING CALENDAR AND WILL BE PART OF THE WORLD BOXING CUP SERIES DEVELOPED BY WORLD BOXING, THE NEW INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION WHICH HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED TO ENSURE BOXING REMAINS AT THE HEART OF THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT...THE WORLD BOXING CUP IS A NEW FORMAT IN WHICH MALE AND FEMALE BOXERS ACCRUE RANKING POINTS OVER SEVERAL STAGES OF COMPETITION THROUGHOUT THE CALENDAR YEAR AND CULMINATES IN A YEAR-END FINALS EVENT WHEN THE STAGE WINNERS AND OTHER TOP-RANKED BOXERS COMPETE FOR THE WORLD BOXING CUP TROPHY...THE EVENT IN SHEFFIELD WILL BE THE FIRST EVENT OF THE WORLD BOXING CUP 2024 SERIES AND FEATURES SEVEN MEN'S WEIGHT CATEGORIES AND SIX FOR WOMEN, THE SAME AS THOSE THAT WILL BE USED AT THE PARIS 2024 OLYMPIC GAMES.
Image: Patris Mughalzai is supported by former Olympic champion James DeGale

“He comes and does pads with us, gives us advice and whatever we need he’s always there for us,” Mughalzai said of DeGale.

When DeGale was an amateur he used to train with Mughalzai’s club coach Steve Newland. One day he visited Newland’s gym, Powerday Hooks and saw the light-welterweight at work. “I can see you can get there,” DeGale told him.

Mughalzai said: “It means a lot for someone like James DeGale to believe in me, knowing I could get to the top level. Now it’s just my turn to go out and prove everyone right and do my thing.”

He believes he can make an impression at this tournament. “I’m a southpaw. I’m quite tall, quite tricky, quite slippery so I can counter-punch,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got the tools so I’ve got to use them.

Patris Mughalzai at the GB Open boxing tournament
Image: Mughalzai at the World Boxing Cup: GB Open

“It’s always good to go out, just enjoy it, be bit different to everyone else. So that’s why I like to do the flashiness, the flair, because I feel like everyone enjoys it.

“As a boxer you’ve got to have the confidence otherwise you’re in the wrong sport,” he added.

“I know it’ll be a tough one, the qualifier. The qualifiers are always one of the toughest, everyone’s going out there to try and qualify to change their lives to try get to Paris.

“But I feel like I’m ready, I’ve put in the work. GB Boxing have kept us on it so we’ve been training hard.

“Now it’s my turn to go out there and just do my thing.”

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