After three two-minute rounds, Wadham Boxer Bella was declared a winner in the Women’s Boxing Show – an outstanding achievement for someone who has only been boxing for 18 months.
Up until recently, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was Bella’s principal sport, which she took up when she was planning to go travelling and wanted to learn the basics of self-defence. Once she had started, she found it addictive, a skill which comprised the benefits of exercise, learning different value systems and respect. But as she explained, “Jiu Jitsu is grappling and I wanted to diversify and learn how to strike.”
She joined the Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club at the beginning of 2018 where she and the twenty-strong women’s group are coached by Dave Mace. Training at the Iffley Road takes place five times a week and includes sparring, in addition to which Bella does sprints, weight lifting and Jiu Jitsu at Roger Gracie Academy and Oxford Martial Arts Academy.
Women's boxing wasn't legalised in the UK until 1997, and wasn't included in the Olympics until 2012 so it is a relatively new sport for women, but Bella would recommend it. “Fighting keeps me happy, physically and mentally” she says.
Does she worry about the dangers involved? “My mum does”, she laughs, but Bella has grown used to injury as a result of her martial arts – dislocated elbow, torn shoulder rotator cuffs, tears in knees and broken meta carpel in her right hand to name but a few. “When you have refined a skill for so long you go into the ring to test it, and it’s as much about ducking and evading hits and managing your emotion as it is about causing damage to your opponent.”
“It is an amazing sport and teaches you so much about your nature and your limits,” she added. Training has become so much a part of her day she describes it as “like brushing your teeth.”
Now thinking forward to the end of her fourth year and finding a career, she is delighted that while at Oxford she has discovered two things she is passionate about – Arabic and Boxing.