Lokoro Boxing Gym in Accrington has made history as the first club to ever have a professional female trainer.
Forty-six-year-old Alison Curtis became the first woman in Britain to hold a professional training licence, after passing the course with flying colours.
She has been involved with the club for a decade, working as an amateur trainer alongside her husband Jason, himself a professional trainer.
“My husband and I have been running the gym for about 10 years,” she said. “It started as kickboxing and then gradually evolved into boxing. We had a lot of amateur lads coming in, but as they’ve got better they’ve started to turn pro, which means they need a professional licensed trainer.
“I had been working with a few younger boys, and as they got better and looked at turning pro I would’ve had to turn them over to my husband to train, and I didn’t want to do that so I decided to apply for a licence.”
At first the trainer didn’t aim to make history – instead applying for a lower level of qualification. Achieving it would have meant that she would be allowed in the changing rooms and in the corner when her charges were boxing.
“I would have worked kind of as an assistant to my husband, who would have been their main trainer,” she explained.
She applied to the British Boxing Board of Control, and was interviewed by the Area Council. It was them who first suggested that Curtis actually apply for a full licence.
She did so after their recommendation, and was lucky enough to find a spot on the training course only three weeks later when another applicant cancelled their place. Before long she was starting her first day – along with 50 men.
“The first thing they asked me was whether or not I knew I was female,” Curtis joked.
“It was all good-natured, but they had never seen a woman on the course before so it was strange for them.”
And it was because of this that the trainer made sure she gave the course her all.
“I sat at the front of the classrooms and asked a lot of questions, so that they could see I was serious about it,” she said. “There are two written exams, so you have to make sure you know your theory as well as the practical stuff.”
The hard work paid off, with Curtis achieving a 99 per cent pass rate in her exams. Despite how unusual it was to have a woman on the course, Curtis insists that she was very well supported by those around her.
“I had lots of men coming up to me and shaking my hand,” she said.
Her family were also supportive. Curtis and her husband have six kids, all of whom box, and she now helps train her eldest son.
“They all thought it was great,” she said.
“Especially the younger ones, they thought it was really cool.”
Now Curtis has to get to grips with the demands of training professionals, which she admits is a formidable task.
“It’s a full-time job – you have to be there for them to train first thing in the morning,” she said.
One of her charges, 25-year-old Artis Ali, has already made the switch to pro, with Shakeeb Ali, 21, set to join him in the next three months.
“This has all been for them,” she said. “They basically gave me my marching orders to go and get qualified.”