Sameenah Toussaint: From ‘hiding behind bags’ to boxing at the Commonwealth Games

Sameenah Toussaint was a 10-year-old hiding behind heavy bags when women’s boxing made its debut at the London Olympics and Nicola Adams swept to her historic first gold medal.

Around the same time Toussaint’s father dragged her kicking and screaming to the local gym where her own bid to emulate Adams would get off to the most inauspicious of starts.

The 19-year-old, part of a six-strong England women’s boxing squad for the Games, told the PA news agency: “My dad wanted me to learn defence but I spent all my time cowering in the corner and hiding behind the bags.

“I was the only girl in the gym and it was really intimidating. When I did start sparring, the boys either went too easy on me or deliberately tried to rough me up.”

Toussaint, who was born in Watford, felt she had no choice but to persist, and there was no looking back after she won her first junior title two years later at the age of 12.

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“When I won my first schoolgirls’ title it was a big turning point,” she said. “I really started to enjoy it and believe in myself, and believe that I could go on to big things.

“I was 15 when the last Commonwealth Games were on, and I watched all the boxing. If you’d told me then I would be here today, I would have believed you, because I started to get a lot of confidence in myself.”

Toussaint is competing in the featherweight division, which means she could come face to face with two-time Commonwealth silver medallist Michaela Walsh, who memorably pushed Adams to a split decision in Glasgow in 2014.

For Toussaint it is a privilege to now be embedded within a programme which yielded the first generation of women’s boxers like Adams and Ireland’s fellow Olympic champion Katie Taylor, who have gone on to enjoy lucrative professional careers.

“Nicola and Katie were really inspiring and what they did made sure that girls can go into boxing gyms now and not feel intimidated like I did,” Toussaint added.

“It’s amazing to think I’m on the same programme as them now, but I believe in myself and after the Commonwealth Games I will turn my full focus to following them by qualifying for the Olympics in Paris and Los Angeles in 2028.”

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