Bloxham Manor Fight Night – May 2000
Arriving at the house at 7.00 pm Nikki and Joan were shown into a large room adorned with expensive looking ornaments and paintings. Joan looked around, admiring the tasteful objet d’art and wondering how much some of the items were worth. At 42 Joan Cooper was an elegant looking woman, three inches shy of 6ft. tall, and weighing 140 lbs. She had been a well known boxer and wrestler until a bad neck injury forced her to quit some 15 years earlier, but, not wanting to leave the sport entirely, Joan started her own gym and soon began coaching promising young girls.
One day in March 1999 she spotted a young woman sparring with one of her regulars, Tina, in the small ring in her gym. Impressed by the girl’s speed and power Joan watched with great interest till the session ended and then said to the bigger Tina, “You had to work hard there Tina! Who’s your friend?” Tina removed her head guard and replied, “Hello Joan; I’d like you to meet Nikki Martin.” Joan turned to the younger woman and shook her hand warmly.
“You looked good in there, Nikki. Have you been boxing long?” Nikki shook her head, her shoulder length ash blond hair spraying beads of sweat, and said, panting, “No; in fact I’ve never tried it before! Tina told me boxing’s a great way to lose weight and stay fit. And it’s fun!” Joan ran her experienced eyes over the young girl, judging her to be aged around 20, weighing about 130 lbs. and about 5 ft. 7 inches tall. Slim and supple and clearly fit, with long, well toned legs, Nikki Martin certainly did not need to “lose weight” and Joan became more curious. Do you work out at all, Nikki?” she asked, and the younger woman flushed and replied; “I only have time for jogging before I go to work, but I do press ups and sit ups at home.” “Nikki works with me at the bank” said Tina, “and I told her about the gym.” “Well Nikki” said Joan. “It’s nice to meet you. I hope to see you here again. Joan watched as Tina and Nikki walked off to the showers.
A few days later Nikki returned and shortly after enrolled as a member; Joan kept an eye on her, noting with pleasure Nikki’s dedication and willingness to learn and, even after so short a time, she began to believe Nikki might have a future in boxing.
Within weeks Nikki was sparring with Joan’s more serious boxers, and proving more than a match for them, and before long had surpassed them! At this point Joan began to take a more active role, working Nikki harder and harder, pushing her to new levels of fitness and skills, including wrestling in which she again excelled. Joan had seen enough to know she had a real prospect on her hands and was delighted and excited when Nikki agreed to be trained by her!
After nearly 10 months of hard, regular training Joan thought Nikki was ready to take on stiffer competition and arranged a boxing match with an old friend called Diane, a tough, seasoned fighter who would test Nikki without giving her too hard a time. As Joan had expected Diane’s experience and skill held sway as Nikki struggled to get near her and, just before the end of Round 3 she threw a sweet right cross which sent Nikki to the canvas, her gum shield spinning from her mouth! When Nikki returned to her corner Joan was there, stony faced. “She thinks she’s got you” Joan said as she stemmed the bleeding from Nikki’s nose; “let her think that! Next round let her chase you; use your speed and that fancy footwork of yours to reel her in, and then….! Nikki grinned; she had feared Joan would be mad at her; “and then!”
The next round Nikki did exactly what Joan had told her and danced and skipped around the ring, bewildering Diane with her speed, balance and agility; but fights couldn’t be won by dancing, and, judging her moment to perfection, Nikki side stepped a lunge from Diane and threw a hard left that rocked the stunned older woman, and then followed up with a fast, sharp combination! Diane tried to cover up but a big right drove into her belly and she sank to her knees! Winded and hurt Diane got to her feet and beckoned Nikki on, but Nikki had been well tutored and instead of rushing in as Diane hoped she began stalking her, picking her off from distance with hard, sharp jabs before finally delivering a fierce left hook which put Diane onto her back! Joan quickly stepped into the ring, fearful her friend had been badly hurt, and was relieved when Diane got to her feet. Rubbing her jaw with one hand Diane extended the other towards Nikki and said “This girl’s a bit special Joan; you’ve got a real fighter here!”
Bloxham Manor in Oxfordshire, England, home to James and Helen Norwood, staged regular female boxing and wrestling events every 2 months where competitors received payments of £100.00 “appearance” money. The winning fighter would also collect a percentage of the gate money, after James and Helen had covered their expenses. These nights were the brain child of Helen, a 39 year old former boxer and wrestler, who, since retiring from the ring, had been training her own stable of boxers and wrestlers, gaining a reputation for the quality of her fighters and another altogether for her unscrupulousness. Each year, Bloxham Manor staged the Champions Weekend Event for the winners of the Fight Nights and a few invited guest fighters, and places on the Fight Night roster were highly sought after; usually, only those fighters of proven quality and the best records appeared, but this night, amongst the stellar list of competitors, Nikki Martin, aged 19, was to have her first, competitive prize fight.
Nikki and Joan followed a man to the changing room allocated to them, but, just as they reached the door, Joan saw a familiar figure heading towards them. “It’s good to see you again Joan! How’s your neck these days?” Joan met Helen Norwood’s huge, beaming smile with an icy glare; the two were old rivals and had fought on 3 occasions in the past.
Joan Cooper had first met Helen Norwood in June 1987, in the ring. Helen was an up and coming challenger of 26 and Joan, at 29, was the Southern England Women’s Combat Champion. In a vicious battle Helen had taken Joan the distance before losing on points, but had angered the champion with her constant barrage of foul blows and dirty fighting. They met again 12 months later and Helen reversed the previous meeting, winning the title and giving Joan a brutal beating over 12 rounds, though taking heavy punishment herself. Both women wanted a rematch and a sponsor put up a large sum of money on the condition the fight was over 40 minutes of wrestling, and 18 months later they met again.
Being heavier and stronger Helen had expected to defeat Joan again, but, with time running out there was nothing between them. With both women close to exhaustion, Helen made one final attempt to finish it and, lifting Joan high over her head, drove her into the canvas in a brutal pile driver! Joan was out cold but Helen, fired up by envy, hate and sheer spite, repeated the move, smashing the unconscious Joan into the mat with sickening force! But still Helen wasn’t done and, standing over her comatose rival, she brought her foot down in a vicious, horrifying stamp, breaking two vertebrae in Joan’s neck! Joan was forced to retire and Helen, her reputation as a dirty fighter reaffirmed, claimed the ex champ was scared to meet her again, and that her injury was just an excuse.
“So,” Helen continued after an embarrassing silence, “You must be Nikki Martin, Joan’s latest protégé! I’ve heard a lot about you, and I know Joan wouldn’t waste her time with a no hoper!” Nikki had sensed the animosity between the two women but didn’t want anything to spoil her night. “I hope I don’t disappoint everybody” she replied, shaking Helens outstretched hand; when Joan ignored her proffered hand, Helen snorted and said, “Good luck, Nikki!”
Carefully and methodically Joan taped Nikki’s hands, all the while reminding Nikki to use her jab, speed and footwork, telling her she was the better boxer, the younger, fitter, hungrier fighter, then she massaged Nikki’s shoulders and legs before finally lacing up Nikki’s red 12oz. gloves. A woman appeared and asked Joan if they were ready; Joan looked at Nikki who nodded and the woman said “Follow me, please,”
As Nikki entered the ring in Bloxham Manors small auditorium James Norwood announced; “Please welcome in the white shorts and vest, weighing in at 128 lbs, from Maidstone, Kent, Nikki Martin!” Nikki blushed at the cheers and applause she received, along with plenty of wolf whistles, and waved at the small, select audience, each of whom had paid a lot of money and expected to be well entertained! “And” Norwood continued, “wearing the blue shorts and vest and weighing in at 136 lbs. a regular at Bloxham Manor Fight Nights, Janet Rickerby!”
The two women went to the centre of the ring where Norwood, who was also the referee, explained the rules.
Back in her corner Nikki removed her gold robe and faced her opponent; Janet Rickerby was more experienced than Nikki, being 8 years her senior, and was a very capable boxer but lacked real punching power, but she was tough and durable, and rarely failed to “go the distance.” Nikki knew only her best would be good enough to defeat her!
The bell sounded and both women moved quickly to the centre of the ring and Nikki immediately went on the offensive, forcing Rickerby back but was unable to score a significant blow due to the older woman’s excellent defence. Circling in a clockwise motion the two women searched for an opening, probing and testing each others defence, then, in the dying seconds, Rickerby feinted with a jab, and, as Nikki moved to her left, the older woman threw a right hook to her belly and a left to her head! Nikki staggered back against the ropes, suddenly vulnerable as Rickerbys fists landed in quick, hurtful combinations, rocking Nikki’s head from side to side, but the bell sounded, sparing Nikki from further punishment.
“She’s a clever boxer!” said Joan as she handed Nikki the water bottle. “You’re lucky she’s no puncher or you’d have been in trouble! Keep her at arm’s length, use your speed! Don’t allow her to trap you in a corner or on the ropes!”
Next round Nikki did as Joan had instructed and kept moving, dodging and weaving and making Rickerby miss. Mid way through Nikki stopped the older woman dead in her tracks with a solid jab, but the seasoned fighter managed to cover up, blocking further punches.
The next rounds continued in a similar pattern and Nikki was beginning to open up a lead. Rickerby pressed forwards but was finding it hard to nail her quick, skillful adversary, and, right at the bell, Nikki slipped a hard right under her guard deep into her ribs, racking up more points.
The bell rang for 5 round and Nikki skipped lightly towards her opponent’s corner, poised and assured. After a bad opening round she had taken control of the fight, not letting Rickerby get close enough to use her fast combinations, counter punching the older woman with great skill. Rickerby doggedly stuck to her task but Nikki pounded her fading opponent, pummeling her around the ring and in her own corner, but the tough pro refused to go down!
By the end of round 6 Rickerbys face was red and puffy, evidence of Nikki’s stinging jabs which had kept her at bay for most of the previous rounds, and Rickerby knew she had to get inside, rough Nikki up and dent her confidence; though no stranger to defeat, Janet Rickerby had her pride and was mortified that this young rookie was giving her a boxing lesson!
Janet Rickerby knew she was being soundly beaten, but, much to the crowds appreciation, she hauled her beaten, aching body off her stool for the penultimate round, hoping that her young opponents lack of experience might yet cause her to make a mistake or become over confident! As Nikki moved stealthily towards her, Rickerby shuffled quickly away, desperate it appeared to keep as far away from her young opponent as possible, and Nikki gave chase.
James Norwood watched carefully as Nikki closed in, ready to stop the fight if Rickerby took much more punishment. The crowd was encouraging Nikki to get in close, screaming for a KO, and Nikki was happy to oblige, firing in punches from all angles! Spurred on by the crowd she pursued Rickerby into her corner with scant regard for her own defence! Alarmed, Joan shouted to Nikki to get back to the centre of the ring but Nikki didn’t hear her, though she did hear somebody else call her name and for a split second turned to acknowledge the praise.
Realizing this was her chance, Rickerby leapt forwards and grabbed Nikki round the waist, pulled her around and slammed a fist into her kidney! Nikki gasped in pain and another punch drove into her white satin shorts and she doubled up in agony! Dazed and hurt, Nikki was helpless and Rickerby was determined to take every advantage! A powerful uppercut smashed into Nikki’s jaw and she staggered, reeling from side to side! With her legs wobbling beneath her Nikki tried to back away and a vicious blow to her breast made her stagger back into the corner! As Rickerby charged in with wild, swinging hooks Joan screamed at Nikki to get out of there but her legs refused to obey! Desperately Nikki covered up but another low blow thudded into her crotch and as her arms dropped to her sides Rickerby swung with all her strength, catching Nikki on the temple and sending her crashing to the canvas!
Norwood stood over the prostrate Nikki as the astonished crowd roared and cheered. Flat on her back, sprawled across the canvas, her senses reeling, all Nikki could hear was a low drone as Norwood began to count, but from somewhere another voice seemed to be calling her, pleading with her; “Get up Nikki! Nikki, get up!” and Norwood droned on, “6, 7, 8”
Somehow Nikki got to her knees and dragged herself to her feet and the auditorium erupted in noise! As Norwood signaled “box on” Joan was close to pulling Nikki out, but she wanted to give her fighter every chance! Nikki was hurt but her fighting instincts took over and as Rickerby rushed in she grabbed her, holding on for sheer survival as Joan screamed “Clinch, clinch! Hold her arms!” Joan had often wondered how Nikki would respond in a situation like this and whereas seconds ago she had been furious at her stupid reaction to the chanting of her name, now she was proud! Nikki was certainly a fighter and if she could just hang on for a bit longer Joan could work on her; Nikki was well ahead on points.
Rickerby tried to break away but Nikki held on like a limpet, and when Norwood pulled them apart Nikki grabbed again, desperately trying to buy time! Rickerby landed a few punches but couldn’t get any leverage, though they still hurt Nikki! The bell rang but neither Nikki or Rickerby heard it and once more Norwood had to separate the two weary women.
Joan worked hard to revive her stricken fighter and was relieved when Nikki’s emerald green eyes showed signs of cognizance! Breathing hard Nikki began to focus on what Joan was saying to her, “You’re still well in front, just keep away from her, jab and move! Jab and move! She’s tired! Seeing you get up hurt her bad! She gave everything she’s got, but you came back! I’m proud of you, Nikki; just 3 more minutes and its yours!”
The crowd was noticeably quieter now; both boxers were weary, the very act of throwing a punch seemed almost too much for them! Rickerby was breathing heavily before the first minute was up and Nikki had so far done no more than flick out her jab towards her exhausted opponent.
Cautiously the two women circled each other, slowly getting closer. Rickerby fired off a quick left/right/right/left combination and Nikki countered with her own, firing a left uppercut which sent spray flying from Rickerbys short brunette hair! With her confidence renewed Nikki pressed home her attack, knocking Rickerbys guard aside and landing hard punches to head and body. Rickerby tried to fight back but had nothing left and slowly but surely she was being worn down, out boxed, out punched and out fought.
Trapped against the ropes in Nikki’s corner, with Joan yelling wildly with each punch her fighter landed, Rickerby was helpless and a wicked body punch smashed what little breath she had left from her body and, as she slid down the ropes, Nikki finished her with a hard left to the jaw! Rickerby slumped to the canvas like a broken doll and Norwood began counting, but it was obvious Rickerby was finished as she sat against the corner post, one arm hanging over the bottom rope. At “10!” Norwood raised Nikki’s hand into the air as the crowd cheered her incredible victory! As Joan stood beaming at her Nikki went across to where Rickerby was being helped to her feet and gave her a hug, drawing warm, appreciative applause from the crowd.
Norwood held his hands up for silence and then announced the result. “With a knock out after 2 minutes of round 8, the winner is, “Miss Nikki Martin!” Nikki went to the centre of the ring and acknowledged the cheers, and this time Joan wasn’t too concerned as the victorious girl responded to the chants of “Nikki, Nikki!”
From behind the ring, hidden by a curtain, Helen Norwood watched the proceedings with interest, a thin smile on her lips. “So” she thought, “Nikki Martin’s popular with the punters! That’s nice, bless her! I enjoy beating up their darlings, it’s a bit like pulling the wings off butterflies! And dear Joan has such hopes for this little bitch!”