Nicola Adams: Two-time Olympic champion turns professional
Two-time Olympic champion Nicola Adams has turned professional.
The 34-year-old from Leeds will not be part of the Great Britain squad in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but could still compete at the Games.
"I can still go back and do Tokyo as well - I wouldn't like to rule anything out. Never say never," she said.
Adams has signed with promoter Frank Warren and will make her professional debut on 8 April in Manchester before a bout in her home city on 13 May.
Adams said: "My hero was Muhammad Ali. I said after watching him I wanted to box at the Olympics and turn pro."
In signing with Warren, Adams said she had found "a team that believes in my dream".
She added: "Together we can help take women's boxing to new levels and I can't wait to get to get in the ring in April and start working towards becoming a world champion."
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) approved changes in June permitting professionals to compete at the Olympics.
'I'm eating humble pie'
Warren's association with Adams comes three months after Ireland's London 2012 Olympic lightweight champion Katie Taylor began fighting professionally under Eddie Hearn's promotion.
Warren, 64, had previously said he was not an advocate of female professional boxing.
"I am eating humble pie," said Warren. "My head has been turned by the fantastic achievements of this young lady.
"Of all of all the signings I have made in my 35 years in the sport of boxing, this is among the most I have been excited about.
"I think Nicola will be challenging for world titles within a year. We intend to lead her to become a multiple world champion."
Adams told BBC Radio 5 live she was delighted to be the fighter who convinced Warren to alter his opinion.
"He said to me that I was the person who changed his mind," she said. "I opened up his eyes to the opportunity of wanting a female boxer."
In November, Adams was a guest on the BBC's Desert Island Discs when she spoke of wanting to be the first female boxer to headline at Las Vegas and how the professional game was "waiting for a big name to step in there and open up the doors".
'A place in history secured'
Adams became the first woman to box for England in 2001 and joined the Great Britain squad in 2010. In beating China's Ren Cancan to win flyweight gold at London 2012, she became the first Olympic women's boxing champion.
She also won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2015 European Games and 2016 World Championships, before retaining her Olympic title by beating France's Sarah Ourahmoune in Rio.
The second Olympic title made her the first British boxer to retain gold in 92 years.
GB Boxing performance director Rob McCracken said: "Nicola has won everything there is to win and her place in history is secured as the first woman to ever win a gold medal for boxing and then top it by winning a second one in Rio."
GB Boxing said it was open to Adams competing as a professional in 2020 but wanted "to continue to encourage young boxers to come through the system so selection for major tournaments will be based on picking boxers that are part of the world class performance programme".
A new challenge
Adams, who was appointed an MBE in 2013 and an OBE in 2016, will continue to compete at flyweight.
But in leaving the GB Boxing training centre in Sheffield, she will have to find her own training venue and support staff, as well as adjusting to competing without a headguard.
"I think it's going to be quite different," added Adams. "I'm excited about that, to have my own team and know that we all have the same goal."
Adams is the third high-profile woman to turn professional in the past six months, following Taylor and American fighter Claressa Shields, who won Olympic middleweight gold at London 2012 aged 17 and retained her title in Rio.