South East Wales

Ashley Brace spurred on by Commonwealth Games disappointment

Ashley Brace training with dad Shaun Brace
Image caption Ashley Brace training with dad Shaun Brace

"I believe if I had gone to the Commonwealth Games it would have been me coming home with that gold medal."

Ebbw Vale Boxer Ashley Brace is not shy in telling you about the unfinished business from Glasgow 2014.

After being told she was ineligible to compete at the Commonwealth Games just two weeks before her fight, she quit amateur boxing and turned professional.

At the time, she was banned over suggestions she had fought professionally as a kick boxer, which ruled her out of the amateur-only event.

Image caption Brace trains youngsters in Brynmawr

Now unbeaten in her first five professional boxing bouts, with two knock-outs, next month she is set to become the first Welsh woman boxer to fight at a major event in Cardiff.

Ms Brace, 25, will fight an as yet unnamed opponent on the undercard of the Craig Kennedy versus Matt Askin fight on March 11 at the Motorpoint Arena.

It is a far cry from 2014, when she could only watch at home as Nicola Adams won gold for England.

Boxing's world governing body ruled her ineligible for the Glasgow games because of her kickboxing background.

But now Adams has turned professional too, there is speculation they could finally meet in the ring in future.

"We've got a little bit of something to sort out. I believe If I had gone to the Commonwealth Games it would have been me coming home with that gold medal," she said.

"I respect her and I think she's a fantastic boxer, but that's what I want - I want to be the best," Ms Brace added.

"There's no point wanting to be second in this game."

Image caption Ashley Brace following Commonwealth Games selection

Former world champion Barry McGuigan said it could be a good match up some way down the line.

"Nicola Adams is 34, whereas Ashley's only 25," he said.

"[Ashley] is a fighter as opposed to a boxer, whereas Nicola was more of a boxer and you never know - they could fight.

"She's going to have to fight somebody for the British title, she's going to have to fight somebody for the European title and Ashley Brace could be the perfect opponent.

"We want to develop more young ladies in the boxing game and hopefully she can be one of the shining lights - certainly in this part of the country."

There have been other battles for Ms Brace too over the past few years, including sexism.

Before her first professional fight in 2015 she told BBC Wales she had been told by coaches "on a regular basis" that she should "stay at home doing the cooking and cleaning" and did not belong in a boxing gym.

She took little notice, and 18 months on, she said things were very different.

The support she now gets at fights, she said, is "crazy".

"When you go to fights, there's people tapping you on the back - people who are there to support the boys," she added.

Ms Brace admitted to being nervous about next month's fight in front of her biggest crowd yet but said she is there on merit.

"I did say the last time I was there 'I want to be on a big show like this'," she said.

"I didn't think it would come this soon but it's making me train harder."

So can we expect more women's fights at big professional events in future?

"We should be on the bills if our talent is good enough," Ms Brace said.

"I'm a good boxer, I deserve to be there but I'm willing to wait my time."

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