Preston boxer Lisa Whiteside is just two victories away from being crowned a European champion once again.
The 31-year-old takes on Russia’s Elena Saveleva this afternoon in the semi-finals of the EUBC European Championships, in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Already guaranteed a bronze medal after wins over Greece’s Aikaterini Koutsogeorgopo and Wassila Lkhadiri, of France, Whiteside can put herself into the final – and in position to fight for gold – with victory over Saveleva.
A European champion in the 54kg weight category in 2013, the JR Gym fighter is hoping to replicate that success of three years ago at her favoured 51kg.
Long-time trainer Mick Day revealed his charge is feeling ‘nice and confident’ as she prepares for this afternoon’s fight, which will go ahead at around 4pm and is expected to be streamed live on the internet.
“I have spoken to her several times since she’s been in Sofia,” said Day. “She’s won her first two fights well – winning them both by points unanimously, so everything is going well.
“She is through to the semi-final against the Russian girl and is feeling nice and confident.
“She’s got a little bit of a cold at the moment but hopefully she will be feeling a bit better when she gets in the ring.”
If Whiteside does go on to win gold, it will crown a remarkable return to the ring for the former policewoman, who has battled back from career-threatening injuries over the past year.
In 2015, Whiteside suffered an horrific fractured skull in an accident unrelated to boxing shortly after winning the National ABA title in Liverpool. After battling back to full health, the former Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club ace’s career was disrupted once more when she had to undergo shoulder surgery earlier this year.
In fact, the Euros are the first major competition that she has entered since going under the knife.
“I think you have got to go into every tournament you enter with the aim of winning,” said Day.
“But she is just coming back from shoulder surgery which happened not too long ago, so to get to the medal stages is some achievement in itself to be fair.
“The year she’s had with the head injury and the shoulder surgery.
“She only started back punching a couple of months ago pretty much – so to be guaranteed a bronze is a great effort.”
Whiteside – who won silver at the 2014 World Championships at 51kg in South Korea – has often found herself in the shadow of Team GB’s double Olympic gold medal winner Nicola Adams.
Yet to appear at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, Whiteside is hopeful her time is still to come especially as Adams is reportedly set to turn professional.
“That’s just been one of those things,” said Day. “It is what it is. The GB selectors had to pick someone who they believed would do well at the Olympics.
“Lisa was down to box Nicola last year, but unfortunately that never happened.
“You can’t really focus on what someone else is doing – you have to focus on your own career and that’s what Lisa is doing.”