Nicola Adams - a trailblazer and a history-maker bows out as queen of boxing

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COURAGEOUS and historic, a trailblazer and transcendent, the adjectives to describe the life and times of Nicola Adams are taken from the very top drawer.

They will be used frequently over the coming days to acknowledge the career of the double Olympic champion, who has today announced her retirement from boxing.

She grew up idolising Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. She retires with a generation of girls idolising Nicola Adams.

Nick Westby

In a letter written to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Adams thanked the thousands of fans who had helped her through the dark days and celebrated such historic moments with her.

Of those there were many.

The first woman to win an Olympic boxing title in 2012, the first to defend that title four years later.

The best in the world as an amateur and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist to boot, plus as recently as this July, a professional world champion.

But the legacy of the girl from Leeds with the disarming smile and the deadly fists is about so much more than mere belts and accolades.

It is a legacy of inspiration.

Twenty-five years ago, when she first walked into the local gym at Burmantofts in Leeds, there were no other girls to welcome her.

Now, that gym is full of girls doing pad work and skipping drills.

Ten years ago, Adams was one of 23 young women who went for a tryout at the Great Britain Boxing Academy, and a few months later, one of just seven selected for the first ever female GB boxing academy.

Pop down to that academy now at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, and it is full of women training in an elite environment for the biggest tournaments in the world.

That is the legacy of Nicola Adams, and one as she comes to terms with making this most difficult of decisions for a top-level sports person, that will give her the greatest comfort.

For even in her finest hour, her thoughts were not selfish, they were for the future of women’s boxing.

“I want to see more girls getting into boxing and participating,” Adams said just hours after defeating her long-time nemesis Ren Cancan of China in the London 2012 Olympic flyweight final.

“If young girls see me winning golds and want to get into boxing because of that then I’ll have achieved everything.”

Consider that a job well done.

London 2012 made Adams a household name.

Of the myriad uplifting stories from that golden summer, hers arguably chimed more with the general public due to the historic nature of the first gold medal, her working class background and that cherubic smile.

Adams at London 2012 was pure box office.

She had a softness to her tone, a polite manner and a warmth that belied her aggression in the ring.

Everything she did post London merely cemented her reputation as one of Britain’s best-loved sportswomen – even though the television appearances never diminished her thirst for titles.

She even fulfilled her ambition of becoming a world champion in the paid ranks, upgraded from interim champion to full honours in July when the WBO belt was vacated by Arely Mucino.

Perhaps that final accolade, after six professional fights, helped make her mind up about calling it a day.

“I’m immensely honoured to have represented our country – to win double Olympic gold medals and then the WBO championship belt is a dream come true,” she wrote in her retirement letter.

“But it’s not without taking its toll on my body, and aside from the expected aches and pains – I’ve been advised that any further impact to my eye would most likely lead to irreparable damage and permanent vision loss.

“Hanging up my gloves was always going to be hard, but I have never felt luckier. And I’m so immensely proud of how far the sport has come.”

Outside of the ring she is an ambassador for the LGBT community, a recognisable face that again serves as an inspiration to men and women.

Inside the ring, she was ruthless, a master boxing technician who fought with great heart and desire.

She grew up idolising Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

She retires with a generation of girls idolising Nicola Adams.