The first British woman in history to box at the Olympic Games, Natasha Jonas, has announced her retirement from the sport.
She has been released from the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) for boxing and will no longer be part of the GB Boxing squad which is training for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Jonas, 30, who competed at lightweight for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Team England at the Commonwealth Games Glasgow, explained: “It just felt like the right time to retire. Boxing is an extremely tough sport and very few people ever see the training and hard work that goes into it and after doing it for a long time, I just decided that it was time to do something else.
“Being away from camp to recover from my recent injury has given me time to think and I just came to the conclusion that I did not want to go back to the demands of full-time training and that now is the right time to retire.
“When I started boxing 10 years ago I was an overweight, unemployed scally from Toxteth and if you’d have told me then that I would win a world championship medal and compete in front of 10,000 people at the Olympic Games I would never have believed it, so I am very proud to have achieved those things and done so well in the sport. I have been to some great places, had some amazing experiences and being able to share them with such a fantastic group of people is something I will treasure forever.
“Boxing is an individual sport but I have been supported by a team of people and I could never have achieved anywhere near as much as I have without the help and support of so many others. My club made me a boxer and GB Boxing made me an Olympic athlete and I would like to thank all of the coaches, sport science staff and support team that I have worked with over the years for all they have done for me. I really couldn’t have achieved anything without them and I wish all of boxers and coaches at GB Boxing the best of luck and lots of success as they work towards Rio 2016.”
London 2012 flyweight gold medallist and former GB Boxing teammate, Nicola Adams added: “I have trained, competed and travelled all over the world with Natasha for the last five years so will be really sad to see her leave.
“Over the years she has been a brilliant campaigner for the sport and has done so much to progress women’s boxing in this country. She was the first woman to ever box for Great Britain, the first to qualify for the Olympics and the first to box at the Games, so she has achieved a lot and been a great ambassador for the sport. She will be missed by all of the team.”
Born in Liverpool, Jonas started boxing at Rotunda ABC to lose weight after her football career was ended by an injury that forced her to return home from a scholarship in the USA.
She went on to become a five time national England Boxing champion and in April 2010 she was selected – along with Nicola Adams and Savannah Marshall – to be part of the first ever women’s GB Boxing squad to train full-time at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.
In May 2012 she secured qualification for London and the highpoint of her career came in July 2012 when she made history by becoming the first British woman to box at an Olympic Games, defeating Quinatta Underwood of the USA in the first women’s bout of the competition.
She went on to lose in the quarter-final to the eventual gold medallist, Katie Taylor of Ireland, in a classic contest which memorably registered the loudest crowd noise of any event at London 2012 at 113.7 decibels.
Her medals at major international tournaments include lightweight bronze at the 2012 world championships in China, light-welterweight bronze at the 2011 European Championships and light-welterweight silver at the same tournament in 2014.
She had been a favourite to win gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but sustained a foot injury in the first round of her opening contest against Shelley Watts. Although she saw out all four rounds, her mobility was severely diminished and she lost a split decision to the Australian who went on to win gold.
GB Boxing’s Performance Director, Rob McCracken said: “Natasha has been a stalwart of the squad since the women’s boxing programme was first established in 2010 and she can be proud of her achievements in representing her country on many occasions, boxing at the Olympics and winning medals at major international competitions.
“Natasha will remain part of the GB Boxing family and will always be welcome to visit our gym and spend time with our boxers to pass on her knowledge and experience and provide them with an insight into what it takes to win medals at major international tournaments and become an Olympian.”
Away from the ring, Jonas has played a significant part in the expansion of female boxing and been a prominent ambassador for the sport.
She was employed as a part-time youth worker for Liverpool City Council for five years and been a mentor for the Youth Sport Trust for four years, helping to promote sport and healthy lifestyles to school-age children. She has spoken at the House of Commons about the importance of grassroots sport and been a consistent supporter of initiatives run by the national governing body, England Boxing.
She is a regular in Sky Sports coverage of boxing, has modelled a range of boxing sportswear for Lonsdale and starred and narrated in a Channel 4 documentary, Knockout Scousers, which charted her campaign to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Natasha added: “I have no idea what I will do now but I do have a few interests outside of the sport. It will be nice to not have to get up and run at 6 o’clock every morning.”