Commonwealth super-welterweight champion Stacey Copeland has revealed that she started her sporting career as a footballer - and cut her hair short so that opponents and spectators would not realise she was a girl.
Now 39, she got England under-18 caps as a teenager before turning her attention to boxing - and later discovering that she would not receive an actual belt for her Commonwealth title.
“As a 16-year-old when I got my first England call-up [for the under-18s], I got my letter and was beyond excited," she told the See Sporty, Be Sporty podcast.
Tokyo 2020
Whittaker says his ‘showman’ style has caught the eye of Joshua
23/07/2021 AT 05:49
I was working in a wholesalers and went to see my boss to ask for a week off. He didn’t say much. He made all these jokes and innuendos. In the end I took it unpaid. I walked out of that office feeling small, insignificant, ashamed of who I was and what I was doing. I felt like an idiot for feeling like it was such a big deal.
Copeland's father and grandfather were both boxers, and although she trained from childhood, she was barred from competition because the sport was not legal for female fighters until 1996. Even then, it wasn't until 1998 that the BBBC granted a woman a licence to fight.
Copeland now runs a charity, Pave The Way, which aims to break down gender stereotyping in sport, using the phrase "Question It, Challenge It, Change It".
And she acknowledges that she is no exception from taking on board cliched ideas about women's sport and achievements.
“I’ve realised over the years how much I had to unlearn, that I’d been taught about women in sport, but about me as well," she added.
"When I had my hair cut short kids started asking why I wanted to be a boy - I didn’t! It made me question myself. Later I learned that women’s sport wasn’t as good as men’s. I had to unlearn that too.”
Tokyo 2020
Trailblazers - Muhammad Ali: The Greatest
21/07/2021 AT 15:17
Tokyo 2020
Ali hopes Olympics debut can inspire next generation
20/07/2021 AT 19:30