Nia’s doing nicely at Merlins Bridge ABC!

Nia Smith and Graham BrockwayThirteen year old Nia Smith has just started out in the world of amateur boxing as a member of the Merlins Bridge Club and is held in high regard by head coach Graham Brockway for her commitment, dedication to training and willingness to listen to good advice.
As coach Brockway told us,
"Nia came to us to train for her rugby but straight away loved the training regimes and it wasn't long before she wanted to take up the sport in earnest, especially once her rugby team disbanded.

Leg raisers for NiaNever say die spirit

"At our club we never hurry newcomers into sparring or taking on bouts and this is particularly so with females because we are more than happy just to have them train with us if that is what they want. It was fully seven months before she first put the gloves on and went into the ring - and showed from the outset that she is a bit of a warrior with her never-say-die spirit.
"She demonstrates real determination to improve and shows up quite a number of young fellers her age with the fact that she attends the club every night and works so hard.
"At first Nia only had boys to spar against but she has coped well against younger boxers than she is, but when she sparred for the first time she had a bit of a bloodied nose, as most prospective boxers do, but she just came back the next evening as ready to be involved again as usual.
“What's doubly nice now is that there is another girl boxer who has started at the club so it won't be too long before she can join Nia in the ring - and I want to get her along to spar with the regional squad in Cardiff before making another appearance at our own show in Letterston later in the year."

High praise from Nia’s parents

"From the very start Graham was as good as gold with Nia and she thinks there is no-one quite like him," said Kate, who Nia says is a terrific taxi-driver to get her from her home in Milford Haven to the boxing
"We were a bit nervous about letting her box," admitted Ian, who played in goal for Johnston AFC in his younger days "but we are very confident that Graham wouldn't allow her to be over-matched or be pushed too hard.”

Totally committed to training

An indication of the way that Nia enjoys herself can be gauged from the fact that she attends from Monday to Friday evening and has been known to even turn up on Saturdays when sessions are held - and after her first bout she has decided to add strength to her legs by running 10k each week, with Ian on his bike alongside her for encouragement and safety.
So now Nia's busy training sessions are as follows, usually initiated by some speed skipping as the warm -up, followed by work on the pads and bags:
Monday: Fitness training
Tuesday: Some kick boxing exercises
Wednesday: Fitness and some sparring (" So no pressure there then," says Nia with a typical chuckle!)
Thursday: Children's Night (where she not only does her own training but helps Graham and the other coaches working with the 7, 8 and nine year olds who are flocking to the Merlins' Bridge Gym.
Friday: Weight training at the 'Powershack' and then back to the club for some more work - and Nia loves every moment, so much so that she is ever-ready to attend on Saturdays before taking a deserved rest on Sundays!

Nia works hard cyclingFirst night nerves

So far Nia has had just one bout as she took on Kia Morris of Briton Ferry ABC at Neath Workingmen's Club and readily admits to nerves before the bout started.
"The worst moments came when we walked into the hall and could see the large crowd already guaranteed and then went to get changed and I waited to see the doctor for my pre-bout medical.
"There were a couple of bouts before we started and when we went into the ring there was a huge cheer and Graham put on my protective helmet, just calmed me down before the MC announced our names and we met in the middle of the ring to touch gloves before the bell went and I was starting my first bout in amateur boxing.

Time flew by

"Graham said that I did well in the first two rounds and I couldn’t believe how fast the time went - and I totally forgot all the training we had done and what he had told me before the bout!
"He said I was slightly on top going into the final round but then I lost a little concentration and had to take a standing count from a swinging punch - and under the rules of girls' boxing it meant the referee had to stop the contest.
"Of course I was disappointed to lose but Graham said he was pleased with my performance and I had a lovely trophy to take to show mum and dad, who had cheered me on.
"The trophy now has pride of place in my room and I am hoping that others will soon follow, especially a winner's trophy, because I am already looking forward to my next bout!"

High praise from a top coach

Graham Brockway's response was, as usual, measured and down to earth and he told us,
"I was very impressed with the way that Nia stuck to the task and she will have learned so much that will hold her in good stead for the future.
"A number of new boxers, male and female, become discouraged if they lose their first bout and take a while to return to action a little while later but not Nia - she was back in the gym the following Monday, looking as eager as ever.
"She already holds in esteem Charlene Jones, our top Welsh boxer who has fought in the Commonwealth Games, and there is no doubt that she will also help Nia develop when she can make it to our gym alongside her Wales and Great Britain commitments.

And finally . . .

"I already see flashes of the way that Charlene was when she set out in the sport and if Nia can maintain her current levels of enthusiasm and commitment there is time aplenty for Nia to do really well."
That is high praise indeed from someone who really knows his boxing onions and we can only join him in complimenting Nia Smith for the way she has set out in such a male-dominated sport  - and we wish her every success for what we sincerely hope will be a long career in amateur boxing because as well as her commitment she is a modest and pleasant young lady who is a credit to her family and the Merlins Bridge Amateur Boxing Club!