Fleetwood fighter who made history and packed a real punch

Fleetwood boxer Jane Couch
Fleetwood boxer Jane Couch

In the latest of our Proud of Fleetwood series, we take a look back at the career of Fleetwood’s Jane Couch – who made boxing history and led the way for women in the sport.

Known as the Fleetwood Assassin, Jane – Britain’s first professional female boxer – won five world titles during her 14 year professional career.

Professional boxing at Norcalympia, Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. Jane Couch (left) against Borislava Goranova.

Professional boxing at Norcalympia, Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. Jane Couch (left) against Borislava Goranova.

Born in Fleetwood, Jane was expelled from school in Blackpool as a teenager and credited boxing with keeping her out of “big-time trouble”.

It was after watching a documentary about women’s boxing at the age of 26, she decided to give it a go.

She burst onto the global boxing scene in 1996, winning a welterweight title after a 10-round fight which showed her as a world-class fighter.

At that time, there wasn’t a single professional female boxer anywhere in the UK – not even in the top gyms of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield or London.

Five times world boxing champion, Jane Couch, after collecting her MBE from the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Five times world boxing champion, Jane Couch, after collecting her MBE from the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Her first non-professional bouts were at the Marine Hall in Fleetwood, where her fights drew a packed house.

But the Fleetwood girl from a small-time gym had to take on the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) to turn pro. In 1998, she won one of her most important fights – a sexual discrimination case against the BBBC over refusal to grant her a licence.

The board had claimed women’s performances might be affected by periods and premenstrual tension. The historic ruling meant Jane no longer had to travel across the Atlantic to fight.

Over her career, her overall professional record was 28 wins – nine of which were knockouts – and 11 losses.

Gazette reporter Frances Bickerdike meets Jane Couch at a sparring session at Bodyquest gym, Fleetwood.

Gazette reporter Frances Bickerdike meets Jane Couch at a sparring session at Bodyquest gym, Fleetwood.

A delighted Jane was awarded an MBE in 2007, news which she said left her feeling “like I have just been hit by a Mike Tyson right hook.”

A long-standing supporter of women’s boxing in the Olympic Games, Jane – who moved to Bristol – announced her retirement from boxing, on December 1, 2008. She has since competed in TV show Superstar, acted as a boxing promoter and a pundit.