Family comes first for boxing ace Lisa Whiteside, but her ambition to become world champion still burns bright

Craig Salmon talks to Preston’s Commonwealth Games boxing champion Lisa Whiteside about impending motherhood and her future career plans

Saturday, 21st November 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 10:04 pm
Lisa Whiteside

After dedicating so much of her life to the sport she loves, Lisa Whiteside has decided now is the time that her greatest love of all – her family – comes first.

The 35-year-old boxer has put her career on the back burner for the time being as she prepares to welcome her and husband John’s first child into this world.

The reigning Commonwealth Games flyweight champion – who gloriously struck gold on the Gold Coast, Australia, in 2018 – is due to give birth to a son next month.

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Lisa Whiteside with her husband John

But if you thought Whiteside was thinking of retiring into a life of maternal bliss, then you would be very much mistaken.

Having turned professional at the beginning of last year, the Chorley-born star’s dream was to become a world champion – and that ambition still burns as bright as ever.

Indeed even during her pregnancy, she has been hitting the gym looking to maintain her fitness levels as much as she possibly can.

And she has every intention of returning to the sport and realising her ambitions next year – even if she will have to juggle her training schedule with changing nappies and night-time feeds.

Lisa Whiteside (right) and Danni Hodges during their flyweight bout at The Lamex Stadium, Stevenage, in May 2019

But as for now, her biggest priority is the safe arrival of her newborn.

Whiteside was coy on what name she and John had in mind for their son, so there is still time to place a bet on either Bruno, Lennox, Joshua or Tyson.

But the former kickboxer did reveal that her baby was showing signs that he is already taking after his mum.

“Oh he’s doing a bit of sparring in my belly,” said Whiteside, with a laugh.

“He won’t stop moving, he’s so active which is a good sign.”

Whiteside has always longed to start a family, but her plan was to become a mum after she had hung up her gloves.

It was her intention to only spend a year or two in the pro game – reach the top – and then retire safe in the knowledge that she had fulfilled all of her goals professionally.

Unfortunately, the politics surrounding boxing has meant her career in the professional ranks has not progressed as quickly as she would have liked.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown an extra curve ball into the mix.

In many respects, Whiteside has picked the perfect time to start a family in terms of her career as the coronavirus crisis has had a significant impact on participation levels in sport from elite level to grassroots.

And so when she does return, the boxing landscape will not have changed too much in the time she has been inactive.

On a personal note though, it is a special time for Whiteside as her husband John – who likes to remain out of the limelight – has always been incredibly supportive of her career.

At times, they have had to endure long separations from each other especially when the fighter was part of the GB squad and trained in Sheffield as well as the many trips abroad to compete on the world stage.

One of the attractions of turning professional was that it would afford her the opportunity to be based full-time at her Preston home.

“John and I always had this discussion about family,” said Whiteside, who won a silver medal at the 2014 World Championships as an amateur in South Korea.

“We have been together 17 years and I always said hat I would stop boxing as soon as we both wanted to start a family.

“I would never put that on hold if he felt the time was right.

“It has always been our priority to have a family.

“But he has always been amazingly supportive of my career.

“He is my No.1 fan and has been through it all with me over the years.

“He’s had to deal with me being out of the country for so many weeks in a year.

“Obviously now he does bring up the fact that now I can’t really train – it’s just a totally different thing I am going through.

“But he is so supportive and he can’t wait for his little lad to be here.

“We have talked about me going back to boxing and once again, he is so supportive and has got my back.”

The boxer – who now runs a Boxing Academy at Smart Fit Gym, in Campbell Street, Preston with her trainer Mick Dayin conjunction with gym owner Andy Dee and Gaynor Duckworth – has admitted that 12 months ago she thought her career may be at an end.

“It was last December when I was supposed to be fighting for the WBO international bout,” said Whiteside. “But myself and John had just been referred to a specialist.

“It came to light that my weight-making was causing issues with my ability to conceive.

“We were both fine health wise but a lot of elite female athletes do go through the same issues.

“Trying to make weight all the time was preventing me from having monthly cycles, which would obviously have a serious impact on my ability to start a family.

“I had to make a tough decision. I pulled out of that fight because I was not in a good space mentally.

“I just thought to myself, ‘Hang on a minute, this is stopping my husband and I from starting a family’.

“Looking back I am so glad I pulled out of the fight because everything went well and my little man is now on the way.

“It’s kind of a blessing in way, although we are in a horrible situation at the moment in terms of Covid, it’s not really affected my boxing career because I haven’t missed too much.

“I must admit when I found out the weight-making was affecting my ability to start a family, I did think that was the end of my boxing career.

“But now my boy is going to be here next month, I can’t wait to get back to it.

“My ultimate goal now is to become a world champion for my son. I do have itchy knuckles.”

Whiteside has decided that when she does make a ring return, she will go up to super bantamweight from flyweight.

Going up to a heavier classification will be a lot less stressful on her body in terms of making weight for fights and may make it easier should she decide to add further to her family in the future.

In any case, fighting in that category hands her the opportunity of potentially landing big fights on some of the biggest stages – Covid-19 dependent of course.

“Currently, it is quite a busy category in Great Britain,” she said. “I feel that the girls who are at super-bantam, I have the beating of, so there is a lot too look forward to.”