‘I’ve never felt better’ insists Nicola Adams after impressive Leeds win

Nicola Adams OBE, celebrating her 2nd professional fight win.
Nicola Adams OBE, celebrating her 2nd professional fight win.
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LEEDS’S Nicola Adams insisted her current incarnation would “destroy” the fighter who swept to her historic gold medal at London 2012 after she claimed her second professional win in style in Leeds on Saturday night.

Adams milked the acclaim of almost 10,000 home city supporters at the First Direct Arena, rounding off an explosive six minutes of action by stopping Mexico’s Maryan Salazar after 35 seconds of the third round.

Nicola Adams lands a crunching punch on Maryan Salazar  at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

Nicola Adams lands a crunching punch on Maryan Salazar at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

The 34-year-old forced referee Howard Foster to step in after a performance that underlined the improvements she has made since her top-level odyssey began with the first of two Olympic golds five years ago.

Adams said: “The Nicola now would destroy the Nicola of 2012 – I feel a lot stronger now, I’ve got more experience and I’m more settled, and I think I’ve just improved.

“But I’ve still got a lot to learn as a pro. There’s so much I can do – settle down and work on my defence and placing my punches. There is no way I am the finished article just yet.”

Adams seized the opportunity of boxing three-minute rounds for the first time in her career by delivering a high-energy display against an 18-year-old opponent in Salazar who also deserves enormous credit for her contribution.

I got a little bit excited because I wanted to put on a good show for my home fans so much, but I settled down and managed to get that stoppage win.

Nicola Adams

With chants of “Yorkshire” and “Leeds” tumbling from the packed stands, the thrilling atmosphere came in stark contrast to the smoke-filled working men’s clubs that staged Adams’s previous, sporadic bouts in her home city since she made her boxing debut as a 13-year-old in 1997.

It was also a significant improvement on her relatively low-key debut win over Virginie Carcamo in Manchester last month, and served as an illustration of the battle she faces if she is to crown her career with a professional world title.

Salazar, who boasted five wins from her six professional fights in Mexico, seemed undaunted by the occasion, pushing out at Adams from the start and serving up a much sterner test than the flimsy opposition provided by Carcamo four weeks ago.

Adams was forced to take a couple of shots in a first round she otherwise dominated, but her eagerness to finish the job led to her cornermen urging her to “settle down” midway through the second.

Nicola Adams and Maryan Salazar fighting for the International Flyweight contest held at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

Nicola Adams and Maryan Salazar fighting for the International Flyweight contest held at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

A furious assault with both fists left Salazar buckling in the ropes, but she was saved by the bell, before referee Foster finally decided he had seen enough after a similarly one-sided start to round three.

Adams said: “That fight was just what I wanted – Mexicans are always tough and strong and have that never-say-die attitude, and I was really able to show my skills over the three-minute rounds.

“I got a little bit excited because I wanted to put on a good show for my home fans so much, but I settled down and managed to get that stoppage win.

“I knew I’d get that kind of reception from Leeds – this is my home town and it is where I grew up, and I’ve been looking forward to this moment for goodness knows how long.”

Josh Warrington defeated Kiko Martinez for the WBC International Featherweight Championship at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

Josh Warrington defeated Kiko Martinez for the WBC International Featherweight Championship at First Direct Arena, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

Adams’s promoter Frank Warren indicated Adams will back out for her third professional fight in the summer, possibly at the same venue on another card topped by local ticket-seller Josh Warrington.

And while Warren is adamant there is no need to rush Adams towards the top, he believes the performance of Salazar presented a blueprint for the way Adams will deal with the other Mexican champions who proliferate at the lower weight.

Warren, who has already made approaches to WBO flyweight champion Monserrat Alarcon, said: “It goes without saying that any fighter going forward will suit Nicola down to the ground so the Mexican style suits her.

“But it’s a marathon, not a sprint and it is about getting experience of fighting against different styles that bring the best out of her.

“She’s not far off – by the end of the year I think she’ll be there.”

At the top of the bill, Warrington scored a gruelling points win over Spaniard Kiko Martinez to retain his WBC international featherweight title.

The 26-year-old extended his unbeaten record to 25 fights with a dominant display against the former world title challenger, but had to settle for a majority decision victory.

Judge John Keane scored the fight a 114-114 draw but his fellow ringside judges favoured Warrington’s much cleaner work with 116-112 cards.