RACHEL BOWER

Former National Champion, boxed for England and silver medalist in the TriNations and World Police and Fire Games. Currently an England coach and head coach of Rathbone Amateur Boxing club, a new club in central London. Also on the England Boxing coaching sub committee.

1) What are the struggles an athlete needs to overcome? 
 

For amateur boxers (and most Pro’s) it’s time. Fitting in elite training around work when your opponent may be training full time is tough. Also, training plateaus and losses take a lot of mental strength to overcome.

 

2) Tell us how you deal with a loss? 
 

Personally I don’t take the usual view of most boxers that ‘winning is everything’. For me it’s about the performance and judging is subjective. I’m not going to beat myself up if I’ve done everything I’ve practiced in the ring but the other boxer just put in a better performance. If I feel like I should have had my hand raised I’ll look at why the judges went with the other person and that will be my focus training for my next bout. How can I make it more convincing?

 

3) Preparation for a fight. What does this include? 
 

Apart from the usual tapering off the training and the weight cut fight prep is all about getting in the right headspace and getting focused. The day of the bout I would always have a really relaxed morning, weigh myself before and after breakfast and limit fluid intake before the weigh-in. Post weigh-in is all about rehydrating and I’d always have the same meal, pasta salad, a banana and a snickers. I’d then try and forget about boxing until about an hour before when I’d start mentally preparing before warming up.  

4) You’re also a coach. What’s your approach? 
 

I believe in coaching, not telling. Too many coaches just shout instructions at boxers. The aim is to teach them to think for themselves so they can read an opponent and make the necessary adaptations before coming back to the corner.

 

5) Do you see more women in the sport? How do you think this is going to change?
 

There are so many more women in boxing than when I started, especially younger ones and it’s only going to keep on increasing. It’s starting to be commonplace and there are a plethora of role models out there attracting women and girls who wouldn’t have been attracted to the traditional world of boxing.

 

6) Talk to us about the pay gap between men and women? What’s your view on that?
 

I’ve only ever been involved in the Amateurs and as far as I know, there isn’t a gender pay gap for the GB Podium boxers. They simply get a salary based on how successful they are as funding is medal dependent. I know it’s huge in the Pro’s like other sports. It’s difficult, I understand the principles of demand, things will take time and the shift will come from increased interest, tapping into new/expanding (female) markets and further changing perceptions in old ones. People like Katie Taylor are seeing to it. Her talent is recognised by everyone regardless of whether they would consider themselves fans of female boxing.

 

7) How do you work on your mindset when times get difficult and you need to push through?

Resilience is definitely something you can build up, drawing on previous experiences and how you overcame those helps me. It’s all about how much you want it, what it means to you and what you are willing to sacrifice but that’s where most people go wrong. They just go 100% a 100% of the time when the best thing you can do may be to take a break, assess the situation or work on something different. So for me it’s about looking at the bigger picture, looking for different ways and not just pushing through – being clever, not stubborn in pursuit of your goal.

 

8) What is your advice to young females who want to get into boxing?

Just try it. Sure, you may not be the next world champion but do it because you enjoy it then see where it takes you. The guys playing Sunday league football in the park know they aren’t going to win the world cup but they are there every week so why can’t you be with boxing? 

 

9) What’s your story?

I came to boxing late at 23. I boxed for years not getting many bouts as there were very few female boxers at the time. I medalled in the National championships four times, losing the final by one point (the old point for punch scoring system was used back then) in 2011. I retired after that thinking that was as far as I’d go, and I became a coach. However I changed jobs and found myself working across the road from Fitzroy Lodge, an infamous boxing gym. I turned up one night asking if they’d accept someone just training for fitness but by the end of my session they had me on the scales and were planning my comeback! I won the National Championship a year to the day I had my first bout for the Lodge.

10) How did you come to boxing? 

I was always sporty at school and represented my school, city and county at things like running, netball and hockey. I went to uni and it just stopped. When I started working as a police officer and doing strange shifts I decided I wanted to try my hand at something new to fill my unsociable free time. Someone suggested I try boxing and enter the Lafone Cup (the oldest boxing tournament in the UK), he said he’d train me and do my corner. I told everyone who would listen I’d entered then about 30 seconds into our first training session realised it wasn’t the boxing he was interested in and that he wasn’t even a qualified coach. So I sought out the coach for the Metropolitan Police team and asked if I could train with them. I was really lucky as they had a strong female squad and I never felt out of place. The Lafone cup was a let-down as my only opponent pulled out on the night (I later went on to win it at two different weights) but as the default champion I went on to represent the Police against the RAF for my first ever bout! I won and I was hooked.

 

11) What led you to become a coach? 

I decided to retire on a high after winning the National Championships and boxing in the USA that year as my swansong. The girls I boxed were young enough to be my daughters and had the luxury of training full time in the Army or at home. I had a career (that I’d put on hold for years) and worked shifts so struggled to keep up at the end. I’d already gained my coaching qualifications and run sessions at a community gym before returning to the ring so my coach at the time asked me to be his right hand woman at his new club. From then I focused on coaching.

 

12) How does being a coach affect you and your game?

I don’t compete anymore but I still train occasionally and enjoy sparring. Considering I no longer receive coaching I have improved more since retirement! I think it’s a combination of relaxing – there is now no pressure, I have nothing to prove and I can ‘play’ around with new techniques and ideas, and the fact I’m constantly learning as a coach and I can add all these things into my armoury. I didn’t realise at the time but my coach had a one size fits all approach and didn’t place any value on the mental side of things. I’m the opposite and seeing how individualising boxers can affect their performance has made me look at reinventing myself as a boxer too. My style is changing as I’m learning from some great, experienced Pro and Amateur coaches.