Boxing: Gemma Brodie brings spice to sweet science

FEISTY mum of two fully focused on Scottish title, not gender politics

Gemma Brodie knows she must deliver in this Fridays national 69kg final against Heriot-Watts Gardner Moore at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Photograph: Alistair Devine

GEMMA Brodie is a fighter, but she is careful to pick and choose which scraps she gets herself embroiled in. Some female boxers have waged a legal battle with Boxing Scotland after it was revealed that the host nation would not have any representatives in the women’s categories at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The selectors feel Scotland’s women boxers are not yet ready to compete at this level.

Brodie admits she will be jealous of the girls from other countries who do get the opportunity to compete, but she has no doubts that the Scottish selectors are correct.

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“None of the girls will be fighting because very few of us have gone and fought internationally,” she said. “I have sparred with some of the English girls and at the moment they are of a different class, but if we are patient and just focus on working hard to improve instead of arguing then we can get to that standard. My focus is winning the Scottish title and then getting more internationals and then there might be a Commonwealth Games or an Olympics in the future.

“Some of the women in boxing just now think they are part of the Suffragettes and see it as a battle. I can’t be bothered with that. Just concentrate on your training, keep improving and let them see you for the boxer you are. That’s a better approach. Let them see how dedicated you are and then you will get better fights.”

Brodie started boxing nearly a decade ago and was one of the first registered female boxers in Scotland. She took four years out to have her son and concentrate on her family but since her return she says it’s obvious that the women’s side of the sport has taken massive strides since those early days. She understands the impatience but stresses that she has never encountered any of the discrimination some are alleging.

“Take my word for it, I’ve been doing this a long time and things within boxing in Scotland have improved a lot,” said the 29-year-old. “I started after my first child, to try to get the weight off, and from then on I’ve been hooked. I did it because I wanted to get fit but the training wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to fight. I am quite feisty and I knew I was capable of it and I enjoyed it. And even when I took my first punch, I thought ‘aye, it’s sore’ but I wanted to keep doing it.

“When I started out, I was the only girl at my gym but nobody ever made any comments, they were all lovely and all encouraged me. I’ve never had any problems. Everybody in boxing has always been dead supportive. I’ve got a really, really good club and the boys there really help to bring me on and help me.”

But in 2012 a group of Brodie’s peers sent a letter of complaint to Sport Scotland claiming a gender imbalance when it came to funding, opportunities to attend training camps and tournaments and citing instances where they felt derogatory language had been used to describe female boxers.

But Sport Scotland said it could not interfere in internal disputes and one unnamed boxer has since taken her fight to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Boxing Scotland has pointed out that over the past five years female participation has increased from three registered athletes to 57 but added that there are strict criteria when it comes to distributing the limited funding set aside for elite performers, claiming the focus is 
on those with European, Commonwealth, world or Olympic medal potential.

“I know there are issues just now with this legal case but I don’t agree with it,” said Brodie. “I told the lassies involved that I didn’t want anything to do with it.

“If I hadn’t had that four years off, I know for a fact that my coach would have put me into internationals because he believes in me and thinks I’m good enough.

“People can say what they want about Boxing Scotland but they have always been brilliant with me. If I said to Richard [Thomas, chairman of Boxing Scotland] I really want to fight internationally, I’m sure he would do it for me because he really cares about all the boxers, the guys and the lassies, and he would find somebody of my level, because he knows we can’t just step into the ring with the very best in the world. We are not ready for that and it could be dangerous so I understand why we won’t be selected for these Commonwealths. It is for our own safety, it is about protecting us.” But the mum of two admits jealousy of those taking part will prevent her going to the Commonwealths, even as a spectator. Instead her immediate focus is the Scottish Championships finals, which will be staged at the Emirates Arena, in Glasgow, this Friday.

The Renfrewshire fighter, who has employed the help of a hypnotist to help her deal with the nerves of boxing in front of a massive crowd of around 5,000, will face up to Heriot-Watt’s Gardner Moore in the 69kg final and says she has to deliver.

“I have two kids and it was fine after my first but trying to lose the weight after the second was difficult and I couldn’t really get down to 64 again so I have come up a weight and I really need to win this one. I have put everything into this.”

She has taken a year out from her law studies to give her the best opportunity for success and trains daily, even forsaking her false eyelashes as she chases the dream. “I’ve not had any on for eight weeks because of the training for this fight and, to be honest, I feel bald,” she says with a laugh. “It’s not like me. I love my make-up, I love my hair and my fake tan! I know people look at me and think, ‘no way is she a boxer’, but I would say come and watch me train, watch me spar, watch me fight, then we’ll see who is the boxer!

“I’m quite mouthy anyway and my coach hates that about me. I’m very demanding and I’m texting him at 3am because I was annoyed with my spar last night! I was raging because it wasn’t a good spar. Although I’m mouthy, I don’t talk about opponents before I fight them but when I get in there I will really tear it up.

“This lassie [Moore] has come down from the weight above, she is 6ft and a big lassie. I’m only 5ft 2in, I’m tiny, so it will be hard and I’m going to really have to work. But I know what I need to do and if I stick to my gameplan then I should be OK. I have been sparring with very big hitters about three or four nights a week for the past month and that has really toughened me up. I think I’m quite strong anyway and I’m quite a big hitter and I know I can hurt somebody and I know I can take it as well. This girl might be bigger than me but she wasn’t born in Govan, I was!”