Sugar-sweet Nicola aiming to provide a special London legacy

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As a child, Nicola Adams would shadow box in front of the television as the great fights of the 1980s played out on screen.

Her hero was Sugar Ray Leonard, the silky artist of the ring who helped shape the great era of middleweights that made legends out of the likes of Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns, ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler and Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran.

While her father watched the fights, Adams danced to the rhythm of the bout.

Leonard struck a chord because, like her, he was small, nimble, swift in defence and deadly when counter-punching.

He was also a pioneer, a man who broke boundaries in the sport after achieving the breakthrough of winning an Olympic gold medal in 1976.

Adams’s path beyond London 2012 may not be as cash rich as the one Leonard walked in the wake of Montreal, given the fact that women’s boxing lags a long way behind the prominence of the men’s fight game.

Yet few Olympic sports can act as a springboard for its champions as often as boxing – think Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Amir Khan.

In triumphing at the first women’s boxing tournament to be held at an Olympic Games this summer, Adams could at least imitate the uplifting effect Leonard had on his sport.

“I was watching an interview recently where Sugar Ray was saying how he never wanted to be a world champion, he wanted to be special,” said Adams, ahead of this week’s World Amateur Championships in China.

“That’s the same thing with me, I want to do something special for women’s boxing in Britain.

“I want to transcend the sport, make it something that more females and younger kids want to get involved in. Staying in the amateur ranks up to Rio (2016) may be my best bet, but whatever I do I want to look back in a few years to see more of the younger generation coming through.

“I want to lay the foundations for women’s boxing.”

The art of boxing is as much in the gift of the gab as the strength of the chin and range of the jab.

But Adams has the credentials to back up her boasts. Three times she has reached the final of the world championships, and last September she won the European title.

“That gave me a lot of confidence and it would be nice to add a world title to the European title,” said Adams, who took up the sport officially at Burmantofts gym in Leeds.

“My dad was a big fan of boxing, we’d huddle round the TV when the big fights were on.

“Boxing was something that came naturally to me. It was probably all those times stood in front of the TV, dancing around watching Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

“And I still study the old fights now on the internet. I watch Sugar Ray because in the amateur game it’s more about speed and technique, you’re trying to get the point and get away before you get caught yourself.”

Adams is only four fights from making history this summer.

There will be 24 boxers in the flyweight division, but her world ranking of No 2 means she will get a bye into the round-of-16 stage. The hard part could be the coming week in Qinhuangdao, China, where not only a world title is on the line.

Adams also needs to reach the quarter-finals to book her place at London 2012.

“My training’s gone well, we’ve done a few training camps and a couple of tournaments, one in the Czech Republic where I beat the world champion,” she said.

“So I’m feeling really confident. It’s going to be tough but I’m ready. Quarter-finals are the aim but I also want to get that gold as well for the icing on the cake.

“Once I get to the quarter-finals and take care of the summer, the pressure will be lifted.”

A meeting with home favourite and world champion Cancan Ren, whom she defeated in the Czech Republic earlier this year, is the likely final at this week’s world championships.

It could also be a pre-cursor to the Olympic final at the ExCel Arena in August.

Twitter: @NWestbyYPSport