You could sense the tears of pride welling up around the eyes of Preston boxer Lisa Whiteside’s mum.
After losing her husband Frank to cancer last year, Chris Gibbons has had to cope with her fair share of adversity over the last 12 months or so.
Although nothing can ease the pain of losing her much-loved husband, there was a joyful smile on her face as she watched her youngest daughter parade a World Championship silver medal at home club Larches and Savick ABC earlier this week.
Whiteside had battled through four tough bouts in the Jeju Islands, South Korea, to reach the 51kg weight category final on Monday against the USA’s Marlen Esparza.
Despite appearing to dominate much of the four-round final, the Team GB fighter was denied the gold medal courtesy of a controversial judging decision.
But the fact that the Preston star missed out on being crowned world champion made no difference to mum.
“No words can describe how brilliant I think Lisa is,” Chris said.
“It’s incredible what she has done. I am so proud of her.
“To do what she does is amazing.
“When she sets her mind to something, she puts 100% in to it.
“There are no half measures...it’s got to be the full thing and she really goes for it.
“She has done that with everything in her life – she’s always been like that.”
Although the medal was hanging proudly around Whiteside’s neck, you got the feeling the piece of silver will be taking pride of place on mum’s mantelpiece at home.
And Whiteside admitted that being able to make her mum proud of her means more than anything else.
Last year she dedicated the European Championship gold medal she won in Hungary to her late dad – who had passed away just a matter of weeks earlier.
But on this occasion, it was her mum who was at the forefront of her thinking as she fought for glory in Asia.
“Obviously a lot was made in the news about my dad’s illness and death last year,” Whiteside said. “He will always be an inspiration to me, no matter what I do. But you know what, this time I thought, ‘I am going to do it for my mum’.
“What a strong person she is with everything she has been through and this silver medal is for her.
“I don’t think I could have coped with what she has been through over the last year or so – she is such a strong lady.
“It’s been a year-and-a-half since my dad passed away and I like to think he was watching over me out in South Korea.
“Before every fight, I would light a candle in my changing room and have a little chat with him.
“I told him that he had to give me a helping hand.
“My mum had bought me this little charm which I named after my dad and I would give it a little kiss before I went out to fight.
“I would say to him, ‘You know what dad, I got the gold at the Europeans last year for you but it’s time for me to do it for mum now’.
“I am not a superstitious person really but I just got into this set routine and it worked for me.”
Away from the sentimentality of Whiteside’s success over the past week, the fact that she performed so brilliantly on the world stage has worked wonders for her career.
Having missed out on appearing at the London 2012 Games and more recently at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Larches and Savick ace has spent the vast majority of her career fighting for recognition.
For so long she has been forced to play second fiddle to GB team-mate and Olympic golden girl Nicola Adams – who competes in the same weight category.
But the events of the past week show that Whiteside has finally emerged from her illustrious team-mate’s shadow and that she rightly belongs at the highest level of the sport.
The silver medal has reinforced her own inner belief especially after she revealed that she was considering walking away from the sport – as she exclusively told the Evening Post on Thursday – after suffering a number of setbacks this summer.
Along with being overlooked for the Commonwealth Games, the former policewoman suffered a shock loss in her opening bout as she defended her European crown.
The fact that her conqueror – Italy’s Marzia Davide – went on to win the entire competition at 54kg was of little consolation to Whiteside.
She was left questioning her future in the sport, but winning world silver has reinvigorated her love for her craft. “I feel like I performed to the best of my ability in South Korea,” Whiteside said.
“It’s given me a huge confidence boost because after the Europeans, that was a real downer, what happened to me there.
“I had to pick myself up, but I brushed myself down and started from scratch again.
“I had never trained so hard as I did for the World Championships.
“I knew I would not have any regrets and I put everything into it.
“Whether it was the runs, the sparring, or making sure the diet was correct – even with the psychologists to get it right mentally with my confidence.
“I could tell with the way I was feeling that I was in good shape.
“I did not get any byes during the competition and I just felt with each bout, I got better and better.”
Whether Whiteside’s medal should be gold – and not silver – is open to debate.
Having not watched a replay of the final, she remained diplomatic about the judges’ decision to award gold to her opponent.
My only advice to her is to perhaps not watch the tape back, else she might feel she has been robbed.
The Preston boxer was awarded the opening round of the final and continued to impress in the second.
Her ability to coax Esparza forward, before catching her with straight right-handers and one-two combinations was a dominant factor during the bout.
Inexplicably, the second round went to Esparza and the judges continued to favour the American despite Whiteside looking like the rightful champion.
“In the final, I felt great after the first round,” Whiteside said.
“I was hitting her with one-twos and I was in and out with my feet.
“She was not quick on her feet but she had fast hands and there were lots of combinations, but not strong.
“I was just catching her with one-twos as she came forward.
“After the first round, my coach said to me,’You’re boxing beautifully – same again!’ and in the next round, I remember hitting her with another one-two combination and I could see her wobbling – you could see it in her eyes.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘This is brilliant’.
“She changed her tactics a little bit in the third and maybe she stole that one but the fourth was very close.
“I do believe that she was awarded the second round 2:1 which I must admit does shock me but it is what it is.
“The GB coaches knew what the scores were after each round and after they gave her the second round, they were maybe thinking it wasn’t going to happen for me.
“It still felt like I had won and I was hoping and praying at the end of the bout that I would get the decision.
“It was mortifying that I didn’t win but at the same time, I was elated because I knew how well I had performed.
“I have become used to getting these decisions – obviously boxing is a very subjective sport.
“I am not going to start saying I was robbed.
“The nice thing for me is I have not only got to the final but I have produced some really good performances against a range of quality opponents.
“I feel like I have proved myself.
“Yes, everybody knows I can fight and I have got power.
“But I have proven that I can box – and box intelligently. I have proven, in my own mind, that I am world class.
“It’s massive for my confidence and I know I can say to myself that I can do this.”
The 2016 Olympic Games are now less than two years away and Whiteside is determined to be on the plane to Rio de Janeiro.
The Preston star knows she faces a fight to win selection as she will be competing with Adams for Team GB’s only spot in the flyweight category.
It would seem that Adams is still the favourite to earn that place due to her past success.
But she will be 34 when the next Games arrive, while Whiteside is three years younger and likely to be at the peak of her powers.
“I think it’s some time in January or February 2016 when the qualifier for the Olympics takes place,” Whiteside said.
“So I have got about 15 months to really work at it and get even better.
“Everybody says I have been in the shadow of Nicola Adams, but this has kind of put me up there.
“I am knocking on the door now.
“I remember doing an interview before I went out to the Worlds with Boxing News and they were asking me what it feels like to be the new Nicola Adams?
“I said, ‘I’m not the new Nicola Adams...I’m Lisa Whiteside’.
“Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for Nicola. She won the Olympics and deservedly so.
“She is a phenomenal boxer – a real natural talent.
“But I think the want and desire is with me now.
“By the time the Olympics come around, I will be in my prime.”
Next year, Whiteside will have a packed schedule as she gears towards Rio.
She plans to take part in prestigious tournaments such as the Feliks Stamm in Poland, the Strandja Tournament and the Gee Bee competition in Finland.
She is also looking forward to taking part in the European Games in Azerbaijan, which should hand her a taste of what the Olympics will be like.
“I’ve qualified for the European Games at 54kg at the end of June,” she said.
“It’s a multi-sport event so it’s like a mini-Olympics.
“I can’t wait for that experience and hopefully it will give me the chance to gain revenge on the Italian girl Marcia Davide, who beat me at the European Championships this year.
“There’s a lot to look forward to.”
For now, Whiteside is looking forward to having a rest and enjoying Christmas with her family, including husband John.
She has two elder brothers Stu and Andy, a older sister called Danielle and several nieces and nephews.
They all greeted her on her arrival at Manchester Airport on Tuesday to celebrate her achievement in South Korea.
“I would like to thank all my family for all their support,” she said. “They all made banners and met me at the airport when I arrived home – it was great that they did that for me.
“I am looking forward to chilling out now – maybe have a drink or two but I think I will be drunk after one sip!
“I can’t remember the last time I had a drink to be honest.
“I am looking forward to spending some time with my husband John. He’s been great. When I came home, he had got me these balloons which said, ‘Well Done Lisa’.
“He had also been to Selfridges and got me my favourite vanilla slice cake and a bottle of champagne.”
Whiteside also had a word of thanks to Larches and Savick ABC, especially her coach Dave Fitzgerald a nd Mick Day, of JR Gym, who has also aided her career.