Craig Salmon talks to Preston’s Lisa Whiteside who won a boxing gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia
Judging by the number of messages which have been sent Lisa Whiteside’s way, she is arguably the most popular champion of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
From people within the boxing community, frends and family back home – even her former work colleagues in the police force – the 32-year-old flyweight gold medal winner has been inundated with messages of congratulations.
Even former world boxing champion of the 1980s, Irishman Barry McGuigan, felt compelled to send her message of support despite the fact she was facing one of his countrywomen Carly McNaul in the gold medal bout in Australia.
There cannot be too many people who begrudge Whiteside’s moment of glory on the Gold Coast.
Her career has been a story of success, but also of huge blows and disappointments.
In the shadow of double Olympic champion Nicola Adams for so long, Whiteside has often been left on the sidelines when the big events have come around.
And when she has been given opportunities, she has found herself on the wrong end of some puzzling judging decisions – like the time she came runner-up at the 2014 World Championships in South Korea when many people felt she had dominated the final against American Marlen Esparza.
She has also had to come back from some sickening injuries, including a fractured skull, which almost ended her career in 2015. “I have had so many messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,” Whiteside said.
“On the plane on the way home, I made sure I got WiFi just so that I could read through all the messages.
“I wanted to find the time to read all the messages because I am really appreciative of all the support.
“It’s just so nice to have so many people take the time to send me these messages and know that they were getting up at 3am back home to watch me box. I had messages from people I have known from way back when – like former colleagues when I was in the police force, people from my first boxing club Natbridge.
“I even had former schoolfriends from primary school getting in touch.
“I walked into a shop in Chorley the other day and the lady behind the counter looked at me and said, ‘I recognise you’!
“It’s so lovely. I certainly don’t take it for granted.”
Whiteside defeated India’s Pinki Rani, via a split decision, in her opening bout in Australia.
She then entered the lion’s den in her next bout as she took on home favourite Taylah Robertson.
The Preston fighter admitted the occasion almost got the better of her, but she managed to win through to the final – via another split decision.
Against McNaul, Whiteside decided she was determined to enjoy the moment and it brought about her best performance of the competition as she dominated proceedings to win unanimously.
“I just felt too tense in the semi-final,” Whiteside said.
“I think I was just trying too hard – I was shattered after the second round.
“I think the camera shows me when I am in my corner saying, ‘I am tired, I am tired.
“I went out there initially feeling relaxed, but as soon I got out into the ring, the home crowd was cheering for my opponent because she was an Aussie.
“They were chanting her name so I knew I was up against it. After the first round, I felt like I had not done enough so I went out for the second round trying a little bit too hard.”
Whiteside admitted there were a few nervous moments when she heard the words ‘split decision’ at the end of the bout.
“Being in Australia against an Australian, and you hear split decision you fear the worst,” she said.
“She was just an awkward counter-puncher and when she did catch me, the crowd would go wild.
“So I had that against me, but I knew deep down I had done enough because I was catching her with the cleaner shots.
“I felt I had won every round, but when they said 3:2, I was thinking surely it’s going to go my way?
“The thing is in the amateur world, you never know do you?
“I have been there so many times before and obviously my reaction at the end when my arm was raisedshowed how happy I was.
“At the end I was feeling a bit jelly-legged – I was thinking why am I feeling so tired.
“I spoke to my coaches and my coach back home Mick Day afterwards and he was saying, ‘Lisa you were trying too hard’ and they told me that I needed to relax.
“So that’s exactly what I did in the final.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘I have got to enjoy this moment and remember it – not think, ‘Oh where did that fight go’.
“But in the final I absolutely loved it in there.
“As soon as they said it was unanimous, I just knew that I had won.”
Standing on the top of the podium, hearing the England anthem Jerusalem, Whiteside has never felt prouder.
“I had to stop my bottom lip from going – didn’t I?” she said.
“I had a right quivering bottom lip.
“It was just immense with everything I have gone through – the tough times, it just felt amazing.”