Rocky films inspire Jamie to chase women’s crown

Islay O'Hara

The return of Sylvester Stallone to our screens in Creed for a potentially Oscar-nominated performance as boxing legend Rocky has offered inspiration to many.

His classic tale of an underdog’s triumph has struck a chord with fans around the world, as well as prompting some to even take to the ring themselves.

Among the movie’s army of fans is Tunbridge Wells boxer Jamie ‘Rocky’ Johnson, who is coming out of retirement for her very own title match.

In March she is set to make an unlikely re-appearance in the boxing world at the age of 52, fighting for the women’s British Masters Cruiserweight boxing crown.

As she explained, her life-long love of the Rocky movies set her on a journey to become one of the sport’s few licensed female boxers.

“I’ve always loved boxing, ever since I saw the Rocky movies. I liked the aggressiveness of them and I just wanted to do it for myself,” revealed Jamie.

She added: “I can’t quite believe the title fight is going to happen, but I’ve got to do this. I’m going to win it – I’ve been training three times a day.”

As she admitted, she was surprised at just how quickly she returned to comparative fitness after a long spell away from competitive fights.

Her memorable career, which includes winning a British Lightweight title in 1994, has seen numerous highlights including gaining support from former world champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier, during a spell of nearly a decade fighting in Philadelphia and Florida in the US, where women’s boxing is far more established than in Britain.

Describing the late US heavyweight champion as ‘a great man’, Jamie revealed that while Stateside she also sparred with both Frazier’s daughter Jackie and Muhammad Ali’s title-holding daughter, Laila.

Such experiences are quite some contrast to her present day job as a customer services advisor at the Shopmobility centre at Royal Victoria Place in Tunbridge Wells, which she does part-time alongside running her own cleaning firm, Rocky’s Palace.

Recalling her early boxing career with some amusement, Jamie, of Scotts Way, added: “I can remember my first fight came after I heard an advert on Radio One in the 1980s which was recruiting women to train as boxers. My first fight was so exciting – they put me up against a 13-stone German girl called Dianne. I was eight stone and I was beaten by her.

“I kept getting battered by people, but I wasn’t getting knocked out, so I thought I’d keep going. In the end, I went to train with promoter and gym owner Tex Woodward in Bristol. From there I went back to London where I won the Women’s International Boxing Federation British Lightweight title, which was unbelievable.”

There have been a number of boxing personalities to whom she has owed a debt of gratitude over the years. Among them are national promoter Eugene Maloney and her trainer in London, Johnny Gleed, at Broad Street Boxing Club, who both provided plenty of inspiration.

After returning from the US in 2007 for family reasons, Jamie felt settled back home and had thought her sporting career was behind her. This seemed even more the case after she sustained a serious injury shortly after arriving back that made her wonder whether regaining fitness would ever be possible. Thankfully, her determined nature led to a full recovery, and she has been involved in youth sports coaching ever since.

One of her finest hours outside of gaining a boxing title came in being nominated to carry the Olympic torch in Sevenoaks for the London Olympics in 2012, for services to women’s sport.

From there, she was part of British Olympic boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams’ support staff at the Games, which offered another major highlight.

This year, having rediscovered her full fitness, she is eager to return to the ring once more for what could be the perfect ending to her eventful career.

“I have been training with a Czech champion and it is great that I’ll be going for the title again at the venue where I started all those years ago at York Hall, in Bethnal Green in London,” added Jamie of her ambitious plans, which could see her potentially claim a remarkable second title.

Jamie will be fighting Sarah Knight for the British Masters Cruiserweight title on March 11th, at York Hall, Bethnal Green

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