Boxer Lisa Whiteside has called for the people of Preston to get behind her as she prepares for a potential blockbuster fight against Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams.
The two fighters look destined to meet in the final of the flyweight division of the English ABA Championships, which take place at the Liverpool Arena on April 24 to 26.
It’s going to be one of the biggest opportunities of my career boxing Nicola.
The likely encounter is being billed as an ‘2016 Olympic decider’ with both fighters hoping to secure the single spot on the Team GB squad to Rio de Janeiro in the 51kg weight category.
Adams became the first female ever to win a boxing gold medal at an Olympic Games when she defeated China’s three-time world Champion Ren Cancan in London 2012.
She is her country’s most decorated boxer and was expected to be an automatic choice for Brazil next year.
However, the form of Whiteside in recent years means the reigning champion’s participation at next year’s Games is not guaranteed.
With Adams out injured late last year, Whiteside (30) took advantage to win a silver medal at the World Championships in South Korea.
She was only denied a gold medal by a dubious judging decision after appearing to dominate her American opponent Marlen Esparaza in the final
Two years Adams’ junior, Whiteside is as hungry as ever to achieve her goal of competing at an Olympics after missing out on selection in 2012.
Whiteside said: “We have both been entered by GB at the quarter-final stage in Liverpool. All being well we will meet in the final.
“We can’t get too ahead of ourselves because we will have two fights before we get to the final and we can’t underestimate the other girls in the competition.
“But Nicola’s the Olympic champion and I’m the world silver medalist, so you would expect us both to get to the final.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest opportunities of my career boxing Nicola.
“I will be boxing an Olympic champion so it will be like I’m a round down already before I get in the ring.
“It will be great to have the backing of the people of Preston and have them cheering me on.
“I think it will help me and give me the motivation to go out and win and do my best.”
While the winner of the potential encounter will put themselves in the box seat in terms of going to Brazil, Whiteside believes other considerations will come into play before selection is determined.
Form and fitness over the next 16 months will be key and, in any case, both fighters must achieve the qualification standard before they can even think about going to Rio.
“I think next month has all come about because of how well I did at the World Championships,” Whiteside said.
“It’s made it more difficult decision wise. I don’t think the fight against Nicola will be the be-all and end-all.
“We both have to qualify and to do that we have to get to the semi-finals of the World championships which take place in Azerbaijan I think next January.
“You have to remember there will only be one spot on the team for the worlds.
“After that you have got the European Championships and to qualify for the Olympics, you will have to get to the final.
“So it’s tough just to even qualify – it’s not as easy as people think.”
Despite losing in the final of the World Championships, Whiteside revealed her performance in South Korea has given her a huge confidence boost.
“I’m not shallow enough to go around and say I was robbed in the final.
“But Rob McCracken, who is the head of GB Boxing, said to me that I won the fight.
“I’ve watched the fight back and I’m confident I won the first round and I definitely won the second.
“In the third I still looked like I was dominating and the fourth was a bit closer.
“I feel like I won three out of the four rounds, but that’s boxing for you.
“It does hit me sometimes and I feel a little bit gutted that I could now be called the world champion.
“But I proved to myself that I can call myself world class and what I did in the worlds has got to be on Nicola’s mind.
“I have the utmost respect for Nicola. She’s the Olympic champion and if she’s on her game and is fit, it’s going to be a very hard fight.
“But over this next month, I am going to train as hard as I can.
“I need to stay relaxed, concentrate on what I can do and just go for it.”
Next month’s championships are also expected to feature fellow Preston fighter and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Scott Fitzgerald.