Karlee boxing's latest hit
KARLEE WHITTON'S father was a State boxing champion and the 18-year-old grew up in a gym, so it was almost inevitable that she would don the gloves one day.
Tonight she will make history when she and Grafton's Gracie Bancroft put on the Northern Rivers' first legally sanctioned female boxing bout.
Although it will only be an exhibition bout, because Bancroft is still a junior at the age of 16, it's a big step for women's boxing in the area.
“My dad was into boxing and when I was around 14 he took over the gym in Casino and I've been in it ever since,” Whitton said.
“I never really got into it until two years ago and it was because of the fitness side of things, but I grew to love it.
“But lately I wanted a bit more of challenge out of it, competition-wise.”
Whitton said she hoped the NSW Government's decision to pass the legislation would lead to more girls becoming involved in the sport and said the bout at the Casino RSM Club tonight would be 'awesome'.
“Saturday will just be a showcase of what it is all about, that the sport is not male-dominated and that females can do it too.
“Everyone makes out that it is just about punching each other but we have exactly the same protections, we have referees, we have judges and we have doctors looking after us.”
Whitton said that she would have to pass a stringent medical check before stepping into the ring for the Casino RSM Youth Club tournament.
“They give you a physical just before the fight and if you have any grazes on your hand you are not allowed to fight,” she said.
“I know that one guy had his fringe over his face and he wasn't allowed to fight.”
And even though Whitton knows that all the safety protections are in place, it's still a sport that involves getting hit.
“It doesn't bother me,” she said. “I'm the only girl at the gym, and I get in and spar the boys.
“When you first get hit it can be a bit of a reality shock, but once you get hit a few times it makes you much more motivated.”
Whitton, who has just finished the first year of a law degree, believes the legalisation of women's boxing in NSW and recent admission as an Olympic sport would add legitimacy to tonight's bout.
“I think more people will think seriously about getting involved in it because they can see there is more of a chance in an Olympic sport,” she said. “They have a goal they can try to reach.”
Whitton's mother wasn't always behind her decision to box, but is now, literally, in her corner - as a trainer.
“She was against it for a long time because she didn't want one of her daughters to be involved,” Whitton said.
“But she actually watched me fight at the Queensland Golden Gloves and she went and got her trainer's ticket so she could be more involved.”