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Boxer Charley Davison: ‘An Olympic medal could change my life’


“Someone asked me the other day if I would prefer to be known as The Boxing Mum rather than just another fighter or mother,” Charley Davison says, “and I just thought: ‘Yeah, I really like that.’ That’s what gives me the drive. That’s what I think about all the time – my kids and boxing. People congratulate me on making the Olympics and they always say: ‘Oh, we can’t believe you’ve got three children.’ But before I get into that ring all I think about is them three children. This is not just for me. It’s for them as well. This could change my life as well as theirs if I was to get a medal at the Olympics.”

Davison was on the fringes of Olympic selection when she retired from boxing in 2012 to start a family with her partner in Lowestoft. After giving birth to Arnell, Amani and Amir, Davison returned to the gym in 2019 to lose weight and she was soon gripped by boxing all over again. She became England national champion later that same year and, last month, she won her place as a flyweight in the GB Olympic squad. Davison is now determined to win a medal in Tokyo.

“It’s not easy leaving the children at home,” the 27-year-old says, “so I want to keep doing better every time to prove you can do anything after having kids.”

Davison is used to overcoming great odds to find her way in the ring. When she was a little girl in Lowestoft, and the daughter of a fisherman, Davison was already besotted with boxing. But she was banned from her local gym as they followed the depressingly familiar ‘Boys Only’ tradition. She was only eight years old but did that prejudice hurt her? “Yes,” she says. “I was really shocked when my dad took me to the gym and they turned us away. It’s crazy – the things you have to do to just take part in a sport you love.

“I understand they didn’t want us to get hurt, as girls, but I was a tomboy and I loved boxing. They just weren’t used to the idea of girls boxing so my dad took me home and for a year we worked on training and sparring in the house. My dad’s boxing knowledge is phenomenal.

Charley Davison (left) lands a left on Carly McNaul during their bout at an Olympic qualifying event in March 2020.
Charley Davison (left) lands a left on Carly McNaul during their bout at an Olympic qualifying event in March 2020. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

“He’s really good at the technical stuff and we used to do so many rounds of footwork together. And we would watch every big fight on the telly. I remember those great nights with Joe Calzaghe, who my dad loved, and Ricky Hatton.”

Her dad, impressed by Charley’s natural aptitude, returned to the gym a year later. This time he refused to accept their rejection of his daughter. “My dad put so much pressure on them,” Davison remembers. “He would say: ‘She’ll train just as hard as the boys and she’ll hold her own. She just needs a chance.’ They finally gave in and I never looked back.

“Once they realised I was good enough, I always sparred boys. I had so many tough spars and my dad had 100% belief in me. I always came out on top even if some of the spars were wars.”

Did the boys accept her? Davison grins. “Yeah, they didn’t hold back, that’s for sure. They knew that if they did they were going to get thumped. So they just stood their ground and gave as good as they got. They fully respected me in the gym even though I was a girl. I beat them on the runs too and when it came to working hard. They accepted me totally.”

Davison rose through the ranks of women’s boxing and she sparred against Nicola Adams and Natasha Jonas who both fought at the London Olympics. Adams became the first British woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal and Davison had just retired and become a mother. “I remember watching the 2012 Olympics with my eldest son and he was under one. I had that buzz and I was like: ‘Oh man, I’d love to be there, I’d love to get back into it.’ But then you remember you’re a mother.

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“Four years later I watched Nicola win gold again in Rio and I got that same feeling, that adrenaline. After I had three kids my coach would still ring me and ask how I was getting on. He and my dad both said: ‘If you really want to get back into it, you’re young enough, blah blah blah. But I always doubted myself a little bit. But then one day I went to the gym to lose some baby weight. From then onwards I wanted to give it a go. I’m so glad I did now.”

Davison stresses that she could not have come back two years ago without the help of her partner, Tanvir, whom she says everyone in Lowestoft calls Bruce. “If I didn’t have him I honestly wouldn’t be here,” she says. “It would just be so much more stressful for me knowing that my children are in someone else’s care. I wouldn’t want to leave them with anyone else. But they’re with their dad, they’re happy and well looked after.

Charley Davison works the jump rope at the Institute of Sport, Sheffield in May.
Charley Davison works the jump rope at the Institute of Sport, Sheffield in May. Photograph: Sam Mellish

“Tanvir is from Bangladesh and his family were in Bedfordshire before they moved to Lowestoft. He and his brother now own an Indian restaurant. He was there working full time until I got into the boxing and he’s now at home full time with the children while I’m away. He’s amazing.

“When I was training in Sheffield he actually done Ramadan while looking after the children. That’s tough because he’s having to eat in the early hours of the morning. He would stay up until half three in the morning, then wake up to do the school run. It was a really testing time but he got through it. I am forever thankful for him supporting me.”

Davison shakes her head when asked if it is sometimes difficult being a mixed race family in a predominantly white town in Suffolk? “No, because in my children’s school there are a few other mixed-race children which makes me feel more at ease. So far we’ve had no trouble. I think that’s because my kids are such well-mannered, good children.

“There’s no reason why anyone would inflict that sort of pain towards them. But you always have them thoughts as a parent – will they get pushed to the side or will they stand out or get bullied because they’re mixed race? But so far the school is absolutely brilliant and the kids [aged nine, seven and five] are so happy.”

Have they got used to their mum being a boxer? “Yeah,” she says with a little laugh. “I’ve gone home with black eyes after sparring or competing. They’re really interested and they go to my punch bag in the garden. My eldest son really understands and my little girl and boy put their own gloves on and just play around. They understand what I’m doing because I’ve sat them down and explained it. I’ve shown them where I’ve boxed and my interviews. They seem to enjoy me being a boxing mum.”

Davison admits that it was “really emotional” when she said goodbye to her family at the end of June. She will be away from them for over five weeks but, as the Olympics come ever closer she says: “I’ve been video calling the kids every day and I’m definitely missing them. But I’m excited now I’m coming to the last hurdle to hopefully getting my Olympic medal. Once we’re done I’ll spend as much time with the family as I can. It will all seem worthwhile then.”



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