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Community Champ Is Just Knockout!
Monday 5th October 2015 @ 11:30 by Mark Phillip

According to Stacey Copeland, boxing is more than just a sport – it’s a lifestyle.

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The 34-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the sport over the past three years, with her most notable and arguably toughest achievement coming at the European Championships in June last year.

Reflecting fondly on the occasion, Stacey described the competition as a fairy-tale ending. She said: “I went to the European championships last year, progressed to the final and won a silver medal – It was a real fairy-tale for me.”

Fast forward several months, and the ecstasy soon turned into agony.

Unfortunately, a case of déjà vu delivered a knock-out blow to Stacey’s chance of shining. She added: “I got picked for the world championships later on in the year, and because the tournament wasn’t seeded, I fought the same girl I was beaten by in the European final.

“After all those months of working hard, the fight was over in eight minutes, and I was in absolute bits that she’d beaten me again.”

Not one to stay too downbeat, Stacey soon picked herself up, brushed herself off and set her eyes on the Nations Cup. “When I was getting ready for the nations cup, it was really important for me to put in a good performance, so I had to sacrifice my Christmas and not eat any traditional food in order to prepare properly” she said.

The sacrifice proved worthwhile though, as Stacey claimed a gold medal and won the boxer of the tournament award.

The sport came somewhat naturally to Stacey, having been raised in a boxing household for as long as she can remember.

While her grandfather has run the family boxing gym for more than 40 years, it was her father – former ABA champion Eddie Copeland – who provided the inspiration. She added: “I actually started boxing when I was really small, because my dad was a professional boxer and my grandad has run our boxing gym for 40 years, so it’s very much in the family.

“I was in the gym three nights a week and loved everything about it.

“My dad was an ABA champion in 1979 which was a very prestigious title, and he also boxed for England before turning professional.

“He had nine professional fights and was tipped to be a star in the sport, but he unfortunately suffered an eye injury in his ninth fight which couldn’t be repaired, which pretty much signalled the end of his career.”

As someone who has always remained active throughout her life, it will come as no surprise that Stacey enjoyed a fruitful football career as well.

As a youngster, Stacey played in the premier league for Doncaster Belles, as well as internationally for England Under 18’s.

Due to a string of career threatening injuries – which included 12 broken bones and five surgeries -her time within the game was unfortunately short-lived.

Although football produced some life-long scars, it also created some ever-lasting memories; none more so than a scholarship in America.

She said: “The facilities and money they put into sport over there (America) is incredible, and it was pretty much like being a full time professional athlete

“I did a scholarship there, which means you do study at the university, but you’re primarily a sports person competing for the university.”

Such was Stacey’s impact during her time in the states, the university named an award in her honour. “I love sport and it’s a priority in my life, but I also love helping others and doing things for the community.

“I felt like I was missing that aspect of my life when I went over to America, so I got together with a lot of the other sports teams and organised a load of community projects.

“We did some in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centres, and worked with under privileged children, so right across the board really.

“In the end they named an award after me – The Stacey Copeland Community Award – which they hand out to an athlete each year who’s shown a commitment to work in the community.

“I was more nervous than delighted at the time because I really wasn’t expecting it.”

With her time in America nearing the end, Stacey signed a contract to play in Sweden for a season.

While many players would have been relishing the move, Stacey – having broken her leg in America – was dubious to say the least. “I suffered my last broken leg at 28 in America, and I think it was just one too many, and it broke my heart really” she said.

“I’d already signed and committed to going to Sweden for a season, so I did that, but it wasn’t quite the same as my heart wasn’t in it anymore.”

Upon the end of her stint in Sweden, Stacey had several decisions to make.

Unnerved by her previous ailments, she decided to pursue her life-long dream of boxing. A decision, I think we can all agree, that has proved to be inspirational. “The time came for me to pursue my dreams in boxing that had previously been thwarted due to barriers in the way.

“There were all sorts of bizarre reasons why it was illegal for women to box, such as menstruation and the way our bodies are.

“One of the reasons cited was that during the pre-menstrual phase, we wouldn’t be sane and be able to control our emotions enough to compete in a sport like boxing.

“Thankfully we’ve passed that time now.”

Although Stacey harbours ideas of competing at the highest level possible, her main priority lies with providing for the community.

She concluded: “The amount of hours that people have put in to create opportunities for people like me is enormous, and while we can never repay them for it all, what we can do is encourage and inspire others in the same way that others have for us.

“During the last 12 months since winning the medal at the European championships, the community aspect has exploded for me and I’ve constantly been asked to come to charity events and do talks at schools.

“Fortunately I’ve not had to reject any, and I’ll always endeavour to do as much as I can, because it’s a massive privilege for me.”