When Nicola Adams floored Chinese boxing great Cancan Ren and became London 2012 Flyweight champion she wrote herself into the history books as the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal.
Her assured performance in the final bout at the ExCel arena venue led to a 16-7 demolition of the opponent who had twice beaten her in World Championship finals – with stunned Cancan dropped to the canvas in the second round.
The Team GB fighter from Leeds, West Yorkshire made Cancan look like a relative novice in the final two rounds as her opponent chased the fight.
Adams’ mastery of one of the sport’s greats was all the more remarkable, given that just three years ago she had to come back from a career threatening injury after falling down a flight of stairs. But she said she was never in any doubt about her ability to win.
Before the Games she declared: ‘There’s only one person who’s capable of beating me. That’s Ren Cancan from China, and I’ve got her number now.’
And so it was to prove. It’s a measure of how far women’s boxing has come in the last two decades – the sport wasn’t even legal in the UK until 1996 – that when Adams stepped into a ring aged 13, at a gym where her mum worked, she had to wait four years to find another opponent.
Few athletes have had to battle as hard and for as long for a chance to prove what they can do, but Adams persevered and made her breakthrough in 2001 when she trained alongside professional World Heavyweight Champion David Hayes at an England selection training camp.
When she turned 18 she was invited to box for her country and never looked back, becoming English national champion four times. Her progress was only hampered by the fact that her chosen sport was in its infancy.
It was only in 2007 that she stepped on to the world stage, representing Great Britain at the European Championships in Denmark. A silver medal followed in 2008 at the World Championships in China.
Despite funding problems, Adams kept fighting, winning gold in the Angered Centrum Box Cup that year followed by another silver in 2010 at the World Championships. Two more gold medals were to follow – in the first-ever GB Amateur Boxing Championship, then at the European Union Amateur Boxing Championship.
But London 2012 was where she became a household name, beating Mary Kom of India before her thrilling final performance in front of 10,000 boxing fans at the ExCel. Her composure and technical skill saw her start the final round with an unassailable 14-5 lead, heralding the emergence of a great new talent.
After being crowned flyweight champion she said: ‘I am so happy and overwhelmed with joy. I have wanted this all my life and I have done it.’
Adams says Amir Khan, who won a Boxing Lightweight silver medal as Team GB’s sole fighter in Athens in 2004, was her inspiration. After her historic London victory, she will undoubtedly now prove an inspiration to many a young female boxer.