VIDEO: Fighting fit… Stockport boxer Stacey Copeland pulls on the professional gloves

“You can see all my wobbly bits! Why do we have to do these exercises with a mirror right in front of us?”

The one-minute timer beeps noisily around Bredbury Stockport Amateur Boxing Club and Stacey Copeland abruptly signals for time-out.

“Why can’t it be there?” she asks defiantly, her voice punching above the stopwatch, now shrieking irritatingly around the gym.

“You should embrace the body you’re in, be positive and don’t moan about it. Would you rather be looking at the mirror while sat on a sofa at home looking at it while lifting these weights?”

It’s a stern lesson that is quickly learnt in this women’s boxing fitness class and it’s a classic fighting statement from Stacey.

Next month, she will become only the sixth woman in Britain to make her debut as a professional female boxer, joining the likes of Nicola Adams and former GB javelin thrower Kelly Morgan.

“I know there’s a very different pressure as a woman. If you watch a men’s bout that’s rubbish – no one says men’s boxing is rubbish. But with women, people will think women’s boxing is rubbish,” Stacey told MM. 

“I needed a brand new challenge. As soon as I started making serious steps to turning professional, I got that hunger back and I needed it because I put so much weight on since being injured.

“The second part is that I want to pave the way for others.”

As the latest trendsetter in this growing territory for professional females, Stacey’s story represents the need to challenge both the perceptions and stigma around professional female boxing.

When she takes to the ring on May 27 at Middleton Arena for her first professional bout, she will join all but a handful of elite females in the UK who have already made the same transition, defiant in their belief that there is a future – a market – for leading female athletes in the sport.

Among them, Kelly Morgan, who turned professional in 2015, has previously voiced her own concern about the lack of incentives available for amateur females who are contemplating the transition, where money is one of the biggest setbacks.

“Women’s professional boxing both in the UK and globally is evolving at a rapid rate. Fantastic amateur talents turning over alongside huge support from the likes of the WBC means the public are seeing a new side to our sport,” Morgan told MM.

“Stacey is particularly exciting in this new generation of professional boxers, not only because of her exceptional talents and wider sporting experience, but because she is fiercely passionate about women in sport being visible, recognised and championed – together we are stronger!”

At 35, Stacey is a year younger than Morgan and although turning professional might seem late for some, these boxing trailblazers have known no different.

“Losing a whole year at my age was a big deal last year as amateur,” Stacey says.

“But boxing was banned when I was a kid – a lot of women they’ve had to start late as they couldn’t spar when they were younger. In terms of boxing, I haven’t got that many miles on the clock.

“You get your Olympians who turn professional and you just haven’t had that with the women.

“I’m proud to be part of this new wave of female professional boxers – I’ve had some 40 amateur fights whereas some pros haven’t had any.” 

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