Sports Personality of the Year: Why Nicola Adams should win

By Jessica CreightonBBC Sport
Sports Personality: Adams' secret fear

Each of the 12 Sports Personality of the Year contenders has an advocate explaining why they should win. Here, Olympic flyweight champion Nicola Adams's friend, the Olympic super-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, backs her to win

The announcer's words were practically drowned out by the deluge of noise from the jubilant crowd squeezed inside the ExCeL Arena.

The 10,000 fans didn't need to hear; they already knew she had won. With an Ali shuffle and a smile wider than a Cheshire Cat, Nicola Adams became the first woman ever to win an Olympic boxing gold medal.

She did so in a manner so thrilling and with such exuberance that the British public celebrated like they'd been watching the Leeds flyweight all her career.

Adams was battling her arch nemesis Cancan Ren of China, who had already beaten her twice in major championship finals. She was also up against those who argued that women's boxing - which only became legal in 1996 in England - had no place at an Olympics.

"Before the Games, most people probably hadn't watched women box before," said Joshua, who won super-heavyweight gold at London 2012.

"Nicola winning the gold has put women's boxing on the map. Now, millions have seen her and all the other women fight and everyone can see how talented they are," he added.

The number of women donning boxing gloves and taking up the sport, either competitively or to keep fit, was already on the rise before it made its Olympic debut this summer.

In 2005, the number of registered female boxers in Great Britain was 70. Today it stands at more than 1,000.external-link

The mind boggles at the extent to which the sport could carry on growing ahead of the 2016 Rio Games, where it is hoped women will have more than just the three weight categories in which to compete.

BBC SPOTY 2012 - The contenders

"Nicola's gold will get so many more people into all sports, not just boxing," Joshua said.

"People will have seen what Nicola has achieved and I have no doubt that the way she won her gold will inspire people to get in the gym.

"She has made waves and showed people the art of boxing."

At 30, Adams is a veteran of the sport. Before it was illuminated by the glitz and glamour of taking part in an Olympics, she was in the gym, working on her fitness, honing her technique and dreaming of emulating her boxing heroes Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

From bouncing around on the sofa watching Ali and Leonard on the TV as a youngster with her father, to her mother taking her to an after-school boxing class as a 12-year-old; all Adams ever wanted to do was box.

"She has dedicated herself to boxing for many years and is now getting the recognition she deserves for creating history," said Joshua. "All her hours in the gym and running on the roads has paid off."

"In [training] camps she is intense, 100% committed from the second she sets foot in the gym.

"Nicola has quick hands and feet, and she is so tough. She can box hard and get into a fight but at the same time box smart when she needs to."

Adams's Olympic crown was the latest in a long line of accolades she has secured during a flourishing career that has made her Great Britain's most decorated female boxer.

In 2007 she became the first English woman to earn a medal at a major tournament. A year after her silver at the European Championships she took the equivalent medal at the World Championships.

After picking up a third silver medal at the 2010 Worlds, Adams became European champion in 2011, something no British woman had ever achieved before.

Building such an accomplished CV requires not just ability and hard work, but willingness to dedicate your life to the cause.

"To be as successful as Nicola has you have to make many sacrifices," said Joshua.

Nights out and time spent with friends and family have taken a back seat over the years with Adams training sometimes three times a day, five or six days a week.

But her dedication was tested to the limit in 2009 when she slipped down some stairs and broke a bone in her back.

Strapped in a brace, unable to move freely, a trademark energetic Adams could only just about get herself out of bed to use the toilet - let alone throw flurries and combinations in the ring.

A few months later when the International Olympic Committee announced that women's boxing would make its debut in London, Adams still couldn't walk properly.

Before the injury, Adams could put herself through a gruelling 300 sit-ups. Post-injury she couldn't manage one. She had to go back to the beginning.

Giving up was not an option. Months of unrelenting sweat and perseverance saw her back in sparring in April 2010 as part of the newly-formed British women's boxing squad training towards the 2012 Olympics. By September she had won herself her second of three silver World Championship medals.

"To come back from something that serious and then basically start her training all over again is a huge achievement in itself.

"The fact that she went on to become Olympic champion after an injury like that makes what she has done even more impressive.

"In the ring Nicola gets business done, she is so focused on the job at hand. She had so much energy [during the Olympics]. She Ali-shuffled in the Olympic final and dropped her opponent, it just doesn't get any better than that."

"I was pleased for her and her win made me even more ready for my final," Joshua said.

Despite the acclaim and popularity, appearances in celebrity glossy magazines and on national television talk shows, Joshua said Adams had not let fame get to her head.

"Nicola hasn't changed, she's still the bubbly, big smiling girl from Leeds. Nicola is good fun round the dinner table, she's always laughing and joking.

"I think the British public have fallen in love with Nicola because she is herself. She is real. It's all about that smile!"