Nicola Adams: Sport has always respected my sexuality but there is still a long way to go

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Nicola Adams writes as guest editor as part of’s Pride Takeover (Picture: Getty)

During my boxing career, I faced a lot of challenges. But thankfully, coming out and sharing my story never really affected my sporting life.

It was being female in boxing that was more offensive than anything else. My sexuality was never a big thing within the sport. Eyebrows were raised because I was a woman in boxing, not because I was a gay woman in boxing.

It was never really brought up or paid any attention to. Fighting as a woman was the biggest struggle. I had my first fight at the age of 13 as an amateur and had to wait another four years to fight again. It wasn’t easy but that wasn’t because I was gay, it was because I was a woman.

Boxing is one of those sports that is inclusive across race, colour, religion and sexuality. Anyone can go to the gym and put some gloves on. It is one of the sports where you don’t particularly need a lot of money to get involved.

Boxing at Manchester Arena

Nicola Adams fought on the biggest stages throughout her career (Picture: Getty)

When I first started, my hero was Muhammad Ali. I grew up watching reruns of him in action, winning an Olympic gold medal, turning professional and becoming a champion and one of the greatest of all time.

The things he did outside the ring were unbelievable and changed the lives of a lot of people. Boxing has always been an inclusive sport – as long as you put the work in you are accepted, there are no limitations.

I think in the past, there have been misconceptions that if you are gay, you can’t like sport. It’s ridiculous. But in boxing, it is not something that I have ever really been aware of. It has always been very inclusive.

Nicola Adams sporting achievements

  • In 2001 became the first female boxer to represent England, becoming English amateur champion two years later.
  • Became the first English female boxer to win a medal at a major boxing tournament with silver at the 2007 European Championships.
    Won World Championship silver in 2008 and 2010 before claiming European gold in 2011.
  • Represented Team GB at London 2012, beating world no1 Ren Cancan to claim the gold medal – becoming the first woman to ever win gold in the sport.
  • Won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
  • Returned to the Olympics to defend her title in Rio 2016 with a win over Sarah Ourahmoune of France.
  • Turned professional 2017 with Frank Warren, becoming the first woman to join the British promoter’s stable of fighters.
  • After three wins, beat former world champion Isabel Millan for the WBO interim title in 2018.
  • Was elevated to full WBO champion in 2019 before defending her title against Maria Salinas in the first female fight to be held at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Announced her retirement from boxing in 2019 after suffering eye damage against Salinas

In other sports of course, there is still a ways to go. The fact there has only been one openly gay male footballer in the UK in the last 30 years just shows how scared people are of just wanting to be themselves.

It shows there is a very long way to go for people to be who they want to be without being afraid. We are on this planet for such a short space of time. Imagine not being able to be yourself for the time you are actually here. I couldn’t think of anything worse.

Thankfully in my sporting journey, I didn’t experience much discrimination, I found an accepting environment in boxing. It just wasn’t an issue for people, I was just another boxer.

I think people were there to give me support which was good, but I never really had the need to. I was happy. And I guess that’s how it should be for everybody, right?

I found peace in the gym and in the ring, it’s a home for so many people.

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

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This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.

Nicola Adams: Boxing and sport has always respected my sexuality but there is still a long way to go

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