Boxer who was told she may never walk becomes first woman to win British title

A woman who was told she might never walk again as a child has defied the odds - to become a boxing champion.

Laura Pain, 24, punched her way to a knockout victory on May 29, winning the inaugural Jane Couch British Challenge.

The super flyweight is the only female boxer to hold the title currently, until fights have taken place in the other weight categories.

And proud Laura, who won the fight in the first round, said doctors told her parents she'd likely never walk after hip surgery when she was a baby.

But the determined toddler pulled herself up out of her wheelchair aged two and practised walking until she could do it.

She then discovered her love of boxing when she had to quit kick boxing eight years ago because of stiffness in her hips.

Personal trainer Laura, from Portsmouth, Hants., said: "It feels amazing - it's a massive achievement!

"I was speechless when I won, and so excited and happy, I've never felt like that before. I knew as soon as I agreed the fight that I was making history, and that felt fantastic.

"It was brilliant, I knew I just had to win. I had no fear, I just gave it everything I had.

"Normally I'd take a couple of rounds to suss out my opponent, but I just went for it with both hands and just didn't stop.

"I'm so glad they've finally given women the opportunity to compete in a specific UK fight. Every female fighter wanted that.

"The only difference now with the men is the length of round, and there's a physiological reason for that. It doesn't feel male dominated anymore: women are just smashing it."

Laura's parents Caroline, 55, a council worker, and Kevin, 56, a postman, were told their young daughter would be unlikely to walk because of a condition called bilateral dislocation of the hips, let alone be able to take part in sports.

But adventurous Laura gave them hope as toddler when she pulled herself up out of her wheelchair using a table in a cafe and tried to walk.

She then kept up her efforts until she eventually was able to go without her wheelchair all the time.

Always talented and active, Laura, who grew up in Dorking, played football for the Chelsea academy, then went to college age 14 to study sports.

She always enjoyed contact sports and took up kickboxing in her teens as a form of self-defence.

But a lack of hip flexibility caused her to give it up aged 16.

Pursuing her love of punching, Laura then switched to boxing as her primary sport.

Laura, who trains up to four times a week with boxing, running, swimming, and weights, said doctors were concerned to hear of her boxing at an annual check up when she was 18, but she has no pain and says her hips don't affect her ability to fight.

The fighter, who has one older brother, said her love of sport really helped her through hard times, like her parents separating, she said: "My hobbies have always been around the gym, apart from fishing, which is definitely where I relax.

"I always knew my career would be in sports. I'm always the first to arrive at training and the last to leave.

"Boxing is like an escape from everything else - you have to keep your focus or you'll be hit.

"I help loads of people now who want to gain confidence or are being bullied in school."

Laura became eligible to be a professional boxer after winning the Harringay Box Cup in 2019.

She got her licence in June 2020 after delays due to lockdown, and has been sponsored by big names such as Adidas.

Laura was then the first to accept a fight to win the new British title eight weeks ago, shortly after it was created.

The title is named after the first British female boxer, Jane Couch, who has campaigned tirelessly to promote women in boxing.

The belt hasn't been fought for yet in other weight categories, so Laura is the only female in the UK to hold a British title currently.

Laura won the title decisively, winning within 90 seconds of the first two-minute round at the City Coast Centre in Portslade, Brighton, on May 29.

She then went out to celebrate her win with her coaches and partner Sophie McCartney, 25, who is a also a personal trainer.

Laura said: "Boxing is like that - there’s going to be only one winner and you have to do what you need to to be that person.

"It's like a chess game, you have to keep figuring out what your opponent might do next. I’m not a violent person!

"It's just how the sport works and I happen to be very good at it - it’s crazy!

"After the fight you always check in to make sure they’re okay, and give them a hug or whatever, but often if you lose you just want to get out of the venue.

"I'm so glad I found boxing. I'll take as many fights as I can."

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