Barrister Claudia aims to win over the judges on her Islington Boxing Club debut
PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 November 2016
Convincing judges to rule in her favour should be second nature for Islington BC’s Claudia Wilmot-Smith when she steps into the ring at the end of next week.
Wilmot-Smith, who will make her competitive debut on November 12, fits her training at the Hazellville Road gym around her demanding day job as a self-employed barrister.
The 32-year-old, who represents corporate clients in court, has discovered certain similarities between her two roles ever since she began training at Islington last year.
“Boxing is a challenging workout – I like pushing myself, and boxing is tough both mentally and physically,” she told the Gazette. “I really enjoy that it has both aspects.
“In a sense it’s similar to what I do at work: problem solving, tactics, and working out what the other side is doing, their strengths and weaknesses.
“As a barrister working up to trial, I’m working with a team with my instructing solicitors and lay clients, but I know I’m the one that has to put my name on the end of the document and sign it off when I’m happy with it.
“And when I go into court I’ve got my team behind me, but I’m the one in front of the judge, making submissions or cross-examining a witness.
“At Islington I feel very much that I’ve got a team behind me wanting me to do well, in the same way I do when I’m preparing for court.
“Ultimately it’s up to me to put into practice the tools that they’ve given me. But I know that I’ll have them in my corner to help me when I do get to fight.
“There are obviously differences too. As a barrister it’s your client’s case. You can only be as good as your case, and you can’t win every time. But there’s a challenge in finding the best way to present it, and getting the best result with what you have to work with.
“In boxing, everybody is physically different, and moves in different ways. It’s a question of finding out what works best for you, but it’s up to you how much you push yourself and how far you can go.”
Wilmot-Smith’s interest in boxing is a relatively recent one – she initially took up the sport to keep fit as part of her recovery from a knee injury.
And, despite being based in west London, she found – after a brief period at Repton BC – that Islington’s training times, allied with their thriving women’s section, suited her perfectly.
“I fell into boxing by accident – it hadn’t been on my radar,” Wilmot-Smith recalled. “I had ligament, tendon and cartilage damage, and I wasn’t able to run and do the usual things I used to do to keep fit.
“So I was trying to find something to do which didn’t hurt my knee. I tried various classes at my gym: spinning and circuit classes, but couldn’t really do them with my injury. I tried a boxing fitness class, that didn’t seem to aggravate it and I really enjoyed it.
“The teacher at the class suggested I should go to a boxing club and see how it went. I started at Repton – it’s on the Central Line so it seemed convenient.
“I really liked the girls there, but it was unrealistic to make their training times at 5pm. My job can be all-consuming and it’s hard not to be at my desk during regular working hours.
“But a friend who had been coaching at Islington mentioned that they had a strong female section and their times were more convenient – training doesn’t start until 7pm.
“So I tried it, liked it and stuck around. It’s still not super-convenient – it takes me about an hour to get here and an hour to get home, but I’m motivated enough to make it work with my other commitments.”
Wilmot-Smith, who will compete at 60kg on the London Community Boxing show in Peckham, says she has also been motivated by the success of her female team-mates at Islington.
She trained with close friend Amy Andrew in the build-up to the latter’s gold medal success at the Haringey Box Cup in June, while England Boxing light-welterweight champion Cherrelle Brown is also cited as a positive influence.
“Cherrelle boxes for England, she’s the most senior female boxer at the club but she’s very supportive of all the girls, encouraging us when we’re sparring,” added Wilmot-Smith.
“Whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day, she’s always there to give feedback. I’ve found it’s very much a team atmosphere and seeing my team-mates compete and do well is something I enjoy.
“I was excited for Amy and motivated by the fact she was going to fight at the Box Cup, and watching her win gold was great.
“Islington’s other two entrants, Amy Broadhurst and Lamin Conteh, both won too, and watching my friends box at such a high standard is really inspirational. I’d love to enter it one day, if I get the opportunity.
“Boxing wasn’t an option when I was growing up – female boxing was banned until the late 90s, and even after that it wasn’t very widespread or accepted for a fairly long time.
“I certainly wouldn’t have been able to box at university, for example, whereas now it’s great to see a lot of girls coming through from their university boxing clubs. The opportunity is much more widely available.”