Showing up for female sport: Natasha Jonas interview
Boxing Monthly's Paul Zanon speaks to Natasha Jonas about the rise of female boxing and much more at the media day for Sky Sports and the Women's Sport Trust's #ShowUp campaign...
Venue? Sky Sports HQ
Event? #ShowUp Media day – 22 May 2018
Why? Sky Sports and the Women’s Sport Trust have partnered to launch the #ShowUp campaign and were asking everyone to show up for women’s sport like never before - whether that be by attending, playing, watching or supporting.
Who was there? Sasha Corbin (England netball), Tamsin Greenway (ex-England netball – current Wasps player, coach, pundit and mother), Isa Guha (World Cup Cricket winner and current Sky Cricket pundit), Goldie Sayers (javelin Olympic medallist – retrospective bronze), Nolli Waterman (rugby), Hannah Macleod (hockey Gold Olympic medallist), Molly Thompson-Smith (climbing and Sky Scholar), Amy Jones (cricket), Natasha Jonas (boxing).
BM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Boxing Monthly. Let’s get straight into this! Why do you think it’s important for more men and women to ‘show up’ and support women’s boxing?
NJ: After the London 2012 Olympics, we’ve seen a massive increase in women and girls ready to box. Having that platform for them to see and also the general public to view women at that elite level it is what was needed. However, women are still so unrepresented in the media that we still need it out there more. The more people that view it, the more people that participate. It grows from the ground up.
BM: Since first lacing up the gloves, have you experienced discrimination or barriers on the way up to your current elite level?
NJ: I was a late starter in boxing. I didn’t lace up the gloves until I was 21. [Jonas is now 33]. You’re never too old to start! In terms of discrimination and barriers – of course. It was never an Olympic sport for women when I started, but that changed around 2009 or 2010. I’ve been quite lucky in the sense that Liverpool is a boxing city and they’ve always supported me from the press and beyond. However, I have heard of horror stories from others females who’ve not been allowed in gyms or [about people] making it purposely difficult for them when they do arrive. I think that kind of attitude in boxing is changing. We have the platform now and just need to get the whole of the establishment behind us.
BM: From your experience over the years, do you feel that women’s boxing is being attended more since you first laced up the gloves?
NJ: Definitely. On an amateur level, it’s kind of like, you go to a show and women are a part of that show. I think it’s slightly different in the professional ranks. With Katie Taylor recently headlining, that was a massive step for us. Whether we [women] ever sell out Cardiff is another question. We’ve got to start somewhere. Professional boxing for women is almost like a new sport in the UK whereas it seems to have been around for ages everywhere else. GB Boxing did a great thing for us as amateurs where we stopped saying, ‘men’s boxing,’ or ‘women’s boxing’ and we were referred to just as ‘boxers.’ We trained in our weight divisions as opposed to males or females. That was a massive step for everyone. To be fair, my club, Rotunda ABC, always used to do that. I was always training with the lads and we need to see that more. We don’t want to feel segregated at a place where you should feel most comfortable – your own gym.
BM: How important do you think social media has become in terms of being able to help maintain and encourage support for women’s boxing?
NJ: It’s a powerful tool. It can be the making or breaking of some people. You have to be very careful how you word stuff on social media, because some people interpret it in different ways. It’s a brilliant tool when used in the right way, but if you offend someone, you can become very unpopular, very quickly.
BM: Over the years, there’s been more of an influx of women behind the scenes within sport. Analysts, presenters etc. What scope is there to level up the playing field of men/women ratio?
NJ: From a woman’s point of view, I think you need to work at it that little bit harder at the minute to be accepted, especially in male-dominated sports like football and boxing. But once you are accepted, you’re part of the team and it’s like, ‘She knows what she’s talking about!’
BM: Sky are giving away 5000 tickets to women’s sports events this year to encourage attendance as part of the Sky VIP loyalty programme. Do you think this will help and why?
NJ: Definitely. It’s like training. The hardest part is getting up and going. Organising to get somewhere. But Sky are helping you – basically saying, ‘Here’s the ticket. Now get there.’ Everyone is hoping that once you’ve been that one time and experienced a women’s event, like boxing, like football, like whatever, you’ll keep going back. That’s the idea behind giving away the tickets. Hopefully it’s more than just a day out and becomes a regular thing. This is not a campaign aimed at women for women – this is a campaign for everyone. Dad’s take your daughters. Mum’s take your daughters. Mum’s take your sons, etc.
BM: Thousands of #ShowUp hairbands are being distributed to support the campaign, many whilst participating. Is this a good idea?
NJ: [Jonas assesses the hairband and says]…. It’s quite a small hairband. I don’t think it will fit around my head! I think it’s a great thing though. Kids especially will love this. Everyone who wears one will feel a part of something and it’s easily visible.
BM: Once you hang up the gloves, would you like to still be involved in boxing….and if so – in what capacity?
NJ: I initially hung up the gloves from amateur boxing and went back to the Rotunda ABC gym and they helped me with a couple of my courses. GB Boxing were also really supportive and got me on board as a coach. Once you’re part of the team, you’re always a part of the team. As long as you fit the bill and your character’s good, they’ll be happy to get you on the different courses. Boxing’s been part of my life for a long time, so I’ll never fully leave. Whether that would be part of initiatives like this [#Show Up], commentating for Sky, coaching or participating, I’ll always be a part of boxing. That’s the beauty of any sport in fact. There’s a massive social side to it. It may be an individual sport, but I go to the gym where’s there’s 50 people in there and always people to fall back on.
BM: For any aspiring female boxers reading this article who may be doubting whether or not to stick with the sport, what’s your message to them?
NJ: Get out there and have a go. I never intended to box. I was a football player and loved football. It was through an injury I stopped playing. [Jonas confirms she’s a Red – a Liverpool FC fan – best to keep her separated from Tony Bellew and his love of the Blues!] Then an opportunity came to attend a boxing session and then after I thought, ‘You know what – I’m going to give it a go.’ From there on I absolutely fell in love with the sport and I’m still here 14 years later. It’s all about giving it that initial try. If you walk into a boxing gym, you’re not necessarily going to box, but just give it a go. The same with football, the same with cricket, the same with rugby, the same with any sport. If you like a sport or have an interest in it, go and give it a go. Show up!
BM: A big thank you for taking the time to speak with Boxing Monthly.
NJ: My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.
An in-depth interview with Natasha Jonas is featured in the next edition of Boxing Monthly magazine, written by Luke G Williams, detailing the affable and endearing Liverpudlian’s gritty journey to date...