Women's Sports: Boxing star Cherrelle Brown - The elegance of a hummingbird with the heart of a lion

Women's Boxing Cherelle Brown

Her delicate nickname is synonymous with resilience. A name that beautifully describes Cherrelle's elegance inside the ring. However, do not be fooled, this girl packs a punch.

The beauty of a person does not come from their success or exterior displayed on an Instagram page. Beauty comes from character, from something special deep inside of them. Beauty shines from within after withstanding extremely difficult times and never giving up, despite the weight of the world on your shoulders. Cherelle Brown epitomises this type of beauty. 

Cherelle's story encompasses huge highs and lows battling through tough beginnings and low points to reach her position in the world of boxing today. Disputes with close members of her family, staying at shelters and domestic violence never held her back from winning three championship medals as an amateur and picking up her first WBC belt as a professional this year. Cherrelle oozes strength and class and personifies the qualities of her namesake, the hummingbird.

Cherelle describes how, early on in her life, her parents were rarely around for her. Consequently, her Grandmother played a huge part in raising her.

Cherrelle spent a lot of time with her auntie and her male cousins growing up and remembers how she would always be fighting with them. She recalled: "We always used to scrap, I think that is why I am so good with the lads, I used to have fights with them all at football and indoors as well - I used to win some of them but got better and better as I grew up."

Remembering the role her mother took in the early stages of her life, Cherrelle reminisced: "My stepdad was around when I was in Year 7 and secondary school years were ok because he showed me, love. He was a good man. The moment they broke up I lost the safety net. It was hard as my mother was violent towards me."

Experiencing this fractious relationship with her mother, it is safe to say Cherrelle has been fighting battles all of her life. Still, it did not stop there.

Cherelle failed her GCSEs first time round so decided to go back to school and do a business course. After a year she realised it was not for her.

"I went to college but life was really hard, my mum kicked me out and I would try to stay with friends without mentioning too much about it. I would always have to end up going home which would break my heart." 

Women's Boxing Cherelle Brown

"I would get normality with them and then it would upset me. After a while, I lived in a domestic violence hostel and completely left where I grew up. It sounds harsh but the physical abuse I could take, it was the words that killed and they still stay with me."

When Cherrelle finished University she moved back with family and cared for her grandfather, but it meant her mum being in her life again, Cherrelle admits to this being a hard mental battle.

"My mum convinced my family to kick me out and I had to live in the gym and an open reach centre. I was even in a homeless shelter for a difficult month."

The next summer a love interest introduced Cherelle to the world of boxing. This would be the moment that turned her life around and introduced her to her biggest passion in life. She recalled: "I started boxing because I thought I could impress her but I just fell in love with the sport."

Boxing provides hope

The moment Cherrelle laced on a pair of gloves she fell in love with how boxing made her feel. The discipline and controlled aggression kept bringing her back for more.

As an amateur, Cherrelle had 36 fights with just five losses and throughout her career achieved something most amateur fighters could only ever dream of: she won three Amateur Championships.

Reflecting on her amateur career, Cherrelle said: "Competing scared me for a while, I never enjoyed boxing a lot at the start but my favourite fight was when I beat Paige Murney the second time. The England coach at the time didn't like me and never understood my character or me. I remember when the decision was announced and they raised my hand, I jumped up in the air and I just cried.

"It was a cry of relief, everything was meant to be against me that day, she had been at all of the camps and I had everything to prove. I think the championships mean a lot to me but the journey is the thing that matters most - it's only looking back at it now how much I appreciate where it has brought me now and the fight I showed doing it."

The fighting element is something Cherelle took to naturally, but she admits pre-fight nerves were a completely different story.   

Women's Sports Cherrelle Brown

"I used to cry because of the nerves it was that bad! I would go and find the quietest place in the building to disappear to and just cry. I'd feel it, I was that bad. Up until my 34th boxing contest, it was difficult but then it just clicked."

A call up to the GB squad trials was next for Cherrelle Brown after impressing early on in her amateur career, but it was not plain sailing. Early on in the setup of the GB squad, there were very few places for females due to a limit on specific weight categories.

Speaking of her GB squad experience, Cherrelle said: "I had a good time on the squad but it was definitely the lack of weight classes why I didn't get on. They considered having me at 60kg but then said no to me because I was too big for the weight which was hard to take but it made me move on. I only boxed at this point because it was a huge part of my identity, but it hurt that I never made it."

Cherrelle decided to turn professional in March 2018 and now trains with coaches Sab Leo and Jon Durrant. Most athletes will understand, the sport does not pay well enough at a lower level to be able to completely quit work and focus solely on training. Consequently, Cherrelle spends her time teaching classes in London and training herself in the hours between.

Cherrelle's current record stands at 6-0 with 2 knockouts and her last fight in July saw her secure the WBC International Female Super Lightweight Title. She beat Kirstie Bavington in a unanimous points decision. Speaking on the fight, Cherrelle recalled: "She was so tough! She was an amazing competitor and she came to win, it was one of the toughest fights I have ever had. During the fight, I was going through a lot of personal problems and I had a hand injury but the chance was there so I took it."  

Women are achieving incredible things in the world of professional boxing. For example Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields at a top-class world level and more up and coming talent taking the scene by storm. Cherrelle Brown deserves to be spoken about as the next great British talent in boxing.

Women in the ring

Equality in the sport of boxing is something Cherelle is striving for and something she finds incredibly important going forward.

"When I started boxing I just wanted equality - yes I have to be a good role model in sport but I think I just focus on being a good boxer. I don't want to talk about it, I'll just beat you on the track or in the ring. We talk about it so much but how about I just prove you wrong, to begin with.

"The 2012 Olympics smashed everyone in the face who had something to say about female boxing. There will always be people who say women shouldn't box but they are usually keyboard warriors. Anyone who has seen our boxing will know that it's exciting and that we have every right to be on the same platform.

Another element Cherelle sees needing more attention is the issue of periods in the sport. She believes more education is needed for men coaching female athletes about their menstrual cycle and how it affects weight.

"One thing that I believe male coaches should be more aware of is females in their periods, how our bodies change throughout that time and how food makes us feel. We must be making weight the right way and looking after our bodies in the process." 

The future of female boxing in Britain

British boxing is currently thriving with the sport displaying great talent from grassroots level right through to the multiple British world champions we have flying the flag at world level. However, Cherelle believes there is still room for improvement in the British system.

"We have some great British champions but we could be more open-minded with our boxing styles and let people express themselves more. We did well in 2012 but there is room for improvement from the ground up."

Cherrelle is a very talented boxer waiting for her break in the sport. When asked what her ultimate dream is within the sport she replied: "At the moment, I have the WBC International belt but I want a bigger promoter to notice me like Frank Warren or Eddie Hearn, to have them behind me to notice my potential.

"I just want a chance to show what I am made of really. When you are with a lower promotion and not on TV a lot of people don't know but you have to pay for the belts sanctioning fees. It's not as glamorous as people make out but it's what I do and I love it."

Cherrelle currently uses her experience and knowledge of the sport to teach technique and fitness classes all over London including at BXR London and Urban Kings Gym. On teaching boxing around Central London, she said: "When I am not boxing I personal train, I just love the coaching side of things - it means I get to talk about boxing every single day. I got to travel with my girlfriend recently but outside of boxing I just enjoy my own space, my girlfriend is my best friend and this is real love so I am happy."

She continued: "Hopefully for my next fight I have a bigger title opportunity but I just have to wait now. Hopefully, the right person comes along and notices me. Unfortunately, when you are a smaller boxer you have to create your hype, tag people and call them out but I hope to be boxing soon." 

Focus on the journey

Looking back at the journey so far, Cherrelle has come a long way from her younger years both physically and mentally maturing, fighting every single step of the way. Speaking on her journey and how she feels about it, she said: "You know when you go through the journey, at the time you don't appreciate it but you just have to enjoy life. The hard times have created the person I am today and now I am lucky, my girlfriend is amazing, I have good friends around me and the hard days are not so hard anymore."

Cherrelle continued: "Boxing means life to me, the sport saved my life and it saves a lot of people's lives even if they never go on to be a champion. It teaches discipline, respect, how to manage emotions and how to carry yourself - it is way more than just a sport to me. People who just claim it is violent have no idea, it is a way of controlled aggression and there is so much beauty in there.

"People think that when you are an athlete you're invincible, but we are not, we are human and we have been through shit."

"In a world where people suffer from mental health issues, it is really important that people open up about it. I have suffered from depression and tried to end my life in 2010 and it was because I never spoke about my pain. It should be a space where people think they can open up and not be looked at differently for it." 

Advice for her younger self

It is always good to look back on what you have been through and look at how far you have come. When I asked Cherrelle what her advice to a younger version of herself would be, she took her time to answer and reflected: "Take education more seriously and always have a backup plan. I'd say I would have said to be more chilled and to go with the flow, live in the moment and stop worrying. Enjoy the journey because it will be ok one day - make adjustments where you need to and adapt but live life to the fullest!"

It was an absolute honour and a pleasure conducting this interview with the lovely Cherrelle Brown. We delved deeper into her past and it was amazing to hear how her life experiences have shaped her as an athlete. I want to wish Cherrelle the best of luck going forward in her career.  

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