International Women’s Day 2019 – Stacey Copeland: Paving the Way & Breaking Boundaries
Each year International Women’s Day aims to highlight the struggles and promote the rights of women the world over. Many iterations of the day have existed for over 100 years now, but it wasn’t until 1975 that the event was formally recognised by the United Nations.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter – the idea that a more gender balanced world will make for a better society while at the same time still celebrating all the things that make every International Women’s Day an essential date on our yearly calendar.
At Sports Tours International and The Running Bee Foundation we’ve long been in the corner of gender equality, especially when it comes to sport-related issues.
And nobody else embodies the fight to reach a gender balance in the world of sport better than our very own Community Ambassador Stacey Copeland. Last year, Stacey became the very first British woman to win a Commonwealth Boxing Championship. But her road to the title, and her journey since, is so much more than a single victory. Born in Hyde, Tameside, Stacey was raised in a time when women and girls in boxing wasn’t just frowned upon, it was illegal. Barred from the world of boxing, Stacey funnelled her energy into playing Football Whilst far from equal, football certainly gave her a taste for success. During her impressive Football career, Stacey not only played with the Doncaster Belles, but hit international level when she was selected for the England Women’s Under 18 squad. Meanwhile, things were slowly changing in the world of boxing, and the lure of the ring was still strong for Stacey…
After the ban on female athletes was finally lifted, Stacey decided to dedicate herself to the fight game with the ambitious goal of not only winning major championships, but promoting the equality of women in boxing. After years of training, sparring and match-ups, Stacey was chosen to represent her country at the European Boxing Championships in 2014, held in Bucharest, Romania. She fought with heart, grit, and determination, culminating in her picking up the Silver medal – a monumental achievement. But, after overcoming so much adversity to reach that point, her dreams of representing her country again at the next European Championships were dashed after suffering a horrific burn to her leg during what should have been a routine knee surgery. Stacey said:
“Not being able to compete in the European Championships and fight for a gold medal was the worst possible outcome from this surgery yet it happened.
These championships only take place every two years for women and that was my last chance due to my age.
To have your dreams ended at the hands of someone else is crushing and has such a huge emotional impact.
I don’t think I can ever forgive what was taken away from me, especially given the way I was treated.”
But all was not lost. The next logical step in her progression as an athlete was to turn pro. She made her pro debut in 2017, picking up a well-deserved points victory over visitor Borislava Goranova in Manchester. Her next three contests would also take place in Manchester, with Stacey garnering two highly-impressive stoppage victories over tough opposition along the way. With an 4-0 record, it was time for Stacey to take a step up…
That opportunity came when she was slated to fight for the vacant Commonwealth Super-Welterweight title… in Zimbabwe! What many might have seen as a daunting challenge, Stacey relished and she grabbed the opportunity to fight overseas and represent her country yet again. Her opponent, Mapule Ngubane, was a durable and experienced contender and was definitely coming to upset Stacey’s plans. But it wasn’t to be – Stacey dominated over the ten round bout and even managed to drop the South African at one point. Her win cemented her legacy as the first British woman to win a Commonwealth title and marked a massive step forward for women in Boxing. To top it all off, the fight was reportedly broadcast to an African audience of over 100 million! Talk about exposure. However, all was not sunshine and rainbows for the newly crowned Commonwealth champion: It’s every fighter’s dream to lift a championship aloft after winning one for the very first time. But Stacey was not afforded this opportunity, because no belt actually existed. Thankfully, she now has that championship belt and carries it with pride being the first British woman to do so.
But her mission isn’t over yet:
While training for her next fight, Stacey is taking her level of influence very seriously and travels all over the country (and abroad!) talking to people about the importance of gender equality and women in sport. She was even offered a spot in her very own TedX talk – a megastar in the online lecture series world with limitless reach and millions of subscribers:
She also has her very own slot on BBC Radio Manchester’s ‘Dead Good Show’ – an amazing platform she uses to spread her message of inclusivity for women (amongst other engaging topics) even further! This week’s edition is all about the issues surrounding International Women’s Week and Women’s Day:
And with her new #PaveTheWay initiative, in partnership with Greater Manchester Sport and Parrs Wood High School, she seeks to offer strong female role models for young girls and is helping to pave the way for a new generation of women in sport. Victory and defeat. Joy and anguish. Trials and tribulations. Stacey’s story has it all and is a perfect example of someone using pure will, skill and dedication to overcome gender adversity. Which is why we’re proud to call her our Ambassador, our inspiration and our friend.
From all of us here at Sports Tours International and The Running Bee Foundation, we wish you a very happy International Women’s Day!