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How Nicola Adams got her fighting chance for an Olympic gold medal

Team GB's Nicola Adams Photo: Press Association

Later today, Team GB's Nicola Adams will step into the boxing ring to fight against China's Can Can Ren for an historic Olympic gold medal in women's boxing.

The 29-year-old flyweight, from Leeds, is a three-times world championship silver medallist and a European champion in a sport that still has its doubters and detractors.

Adams is one of the 36 female fighters to compete at London 2012, as women's boxing makes its Olympics debut, after the International Olympic Committee's executive board ruled in August 2009 that boxing should no longer be a male-only event at the Games.

And now she is just one fight away from seeing her ultimate sporting ambition come to fruition.

After her semi-final win, Adams said: "I've been training for this moment since I was 12 years old and to think it is finally here is just incredible."

Nicola Adams celebrates beating India's Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte during the Women's Fly (48-51kg) boxing semi-final Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Fred Gummerson, 80, one of the trainers who helped train the boxer, has said there is no way she will allow anyone else to take gold after she secured a place in the first-ever Olympic women's boxing final.

He added: "She's put her life and soul into it. She lives and breathes boxing and knows nothing else."

Fred Gummerson, 80, helped train Nicola Adams Credit: Dave Higgens/PA Wire

But just three years ago, her Olympic dream and future in the sport hung by a thread after the flyweight cracked a bone in her back when she tripped and fell down the stairs on her way to a bout.

She was bed-bound for three months and out of the ring for a year.

It would have been easy to hang up her gloves after that but Adams has been determined to reach the top of her profession.

"I actually do think she is a pioneer. I think she is going to be a legend," her mother Dee Adams said.

She has gone out and proved people wrong.

People are looking at her and other female boxers and now people are inspired to try it.

They are going to gyms to do boxing and boxercise.

– Dee Adams, mother of Nicola Adams
Nicola Adams straps her fingers before a sparring session Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Born into a boxing-mad family, the former Agnes Stewart School pupil first put on the gloves aged 12 at Burmantofts amateur club in Leeds where she was the only girl.

Mrs Adams said: "She came home from school, did her homework, went to the gym and surprised the coaches because she was so good."

But despite her obvious talent, there was one recurring problem Nicola faced. A lack of opponents.

At this time, women's boxing was taboo, and the issue of whether they should be allowed to box was the subject of much controversial debate.

The controversy came to a head in 1998 when Fleetwood Assassin Jane Couch won a landmark legal case which opened the door to female boxing in the UK.

Jane Couch was Britain's first licensed professional female boxer Credit: Michael Stephens/PA Archive

It was just the right time for Adams who had campaigned for the right to box.

Initially at least, fights were few and far between because so few girls took part in the sport.

Adams has been boxing competitively since 2001 but it has not been easy and in the past she has struggled to scrape money together for her training.

It's not surprising that she did some TV extra work - she has appeared on Eastenders and Coronation Street - tried stunt acting and was a former builder to make up for the funding shortfall.

She was finally able to focus on her vocation when officials said women would be allowed to box at London 2012 and she was given funding.

Nicola's boxing achievements to date

  • In 2007, she picked up the silver in the European Championships in Denmark.
  • In 2008, she was runner-up in the Women's World Championships in China.
  • She took silver again at the Women's World Championships in 2010 and 2012.
  • In 2011, she won gold in the European Championships in 2011.
Muhammad Ali is one of Nicola Adams' boxing inspirations Credit: PA Wire

Adams, cites Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson as her idols.

In her quarter-final match, she even threw in an "Ali shuffle" to keep the home crowd entertained at the Excel centre in east London.

Nicola Adams (right) during her Women's Boxing at Fly 51kg Quarter Final Bout against Bulgaria's Stoyka Petrova Credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

But despite all her boxing prowess and ambition, Nicola's mother says she is "totally different" when she is not in the ring.

Mrs Adams said:

She is gentle in a way and she is a mummy's girl and easygoing when she is out of the ring.

She is totally different when she is in the ring.

You can see her concentrating on what she has to do.

She is in there to do her job.

She is aggressive and focused and then when she comes out she is smiling again.

Later today, Nicola will be hoping she leaves the ring with both a smile and a gold medal.