STACEY Copeland admits life without sport will be “scary” after the boxer was forced to announce her retirement.
A serious knee issue, osteo-arthritis, has forced the world title contender from Stalybridge to call time on her career as going on would have put her long-term health at risk.
After several operations, treatments and scans, as well as attempts to get back going again, the time to announce she would not be getting back in the ring has some.
And Stacey, who admits she made the decision back in June but had kept it secret until earlier this month, is daunted about what lies ahead.
She said: “I made my mind up in June and I was thinking I’ll get to the point where I feel ready, but it’s got harder and harder to accept.
“And I guess life without sport is the scary bit, nothing is ever going to be similar to that.
“I’d had scans after it went for the third time in 12 months. I was on crutches and in agony and I’d tried everything.
“I’d had surgery multiple times, treatment, I’ve had it drained, I’ve used orthotics, I’ve got a brace, everything.
“But the knee has become so damaged, there’s pretty much no cartilage. When I have flare ups they’re really bad, I’m literally on crutches for a couple of weeks.
“If I’d carried on I’d have been really jeopardising my long-term mobility and that’s too serious to ignore. Even if it as good enough to do a camp, there’s that long-term thing to think about.“There’s big surgery where they take out part of my femur and replace it with a plate, that will give me a bit more time but that only lasts a certain amount of time then you’ve got to have bigger surgery.”
Stacey will retire a history maker after she became the first female boxer in history to win the Commonwealth title in 2018 after defeating Mapule Ngubane by unanimous decision at Zimbabwe’s International Convention Centre.
But one thing was just out of reach, for a variety of reasons – a shot at the world title.
The 39-year-old, who trained with Blain Younis out of Hatton Health and Fitness, Hyde, added: “I wanted that world title.
“We were very close to agreeing a fight in Manchester at one time, so that’s horrible and sport is everything I’ve wanted, everything I’ve known.
“I don’t remember a day where I woke up not thinking about sport. I never wanted to think about that day coming but it comes to us all.”Stacey announced her retirement with a heartfelt ‘letter to sport’ in which she details the ups and downs both boxing and football.
She said: “Throughout my life you’ve given me purpose, meaning, and goals to strive for, and my life has revolved around those sporting dreams.
“You will leave a void that can never be filled, but have also taught me so much, so it’s time to say thank you…
“For Resilience. Several times you broke my heart. On a football pitch in California when we lost on penalties in the National Championships; in a boxing ring in South Korea when I lost in the World Championships and the many times where I felt the crushing feeling of a devastating defeat.
“For Persistence. You’ve tested me to my limits with injuries. Nine surgeries and 12 broken bones to name but a few!
“For Determination. Pre-season training in the intense summer heat of Texas, lungs on fire, everything hurting. The final rounds of a title fight, muscles screaming, my body desperate to stop, but my mind pushing me on to the final bell. You taught me that I am capable of things I didn’t know were possible.
“For Equality. From early on, I was aware that my sports did not welcome females, as a youngster it affected me greatly, and the injustice of it all made me angry.
“Most important of all, you’ve helped me to positively impact others. Sport is one of the most powerful things on the planet for making a difference, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing that magic happen.
“So thank you sport, for taking a kid who was made to feel weird, ashamed, and bad for doing what she loved, to being an athlete who’s represented her country in two sports, and a woman who finally feels proud of what she’s achieved and who she’s become.”
Now she no longer competes in sport, Stacey still has sport in her life, talking about it on BBC Radio Manchester and inspiring others through her Pave The Way programme.
She also works two days a week as a learning support staff member at Parr’s Wood High School, Didsbury, but Covid-19 has meant she cannot deliver talks she has done in the past.
She added: “I do loads of public speaking and that’s something I really enjoy but, what’s going on now has made the transition a bit harder because I’m not able to do it.
“Moving on can’t really happen at the moment but I’m very driven and I want to pass my experiences and emotions on to others.”