IF she was a bloke, Louisa Hawton might have expected a tickertape parade or even the keys to the city when she returned to Perth last month.
After all, that’s what Brisbane lavished on schoolteacher-cum-boxer Jeff Horn when he won the world title three years ago, and in boxing circles some would argue the WBC title Hawton defended just before Christmas is superior to the WBO. (Think WBC, think Muhammed Ali).
But there was barely a ripple when the new world atomweight champion, nicknamed “Bang Bang Lulu”, recently arrived in Perth for a break; staying at a friend’s place in Bicton and catching up with her two kids who live with their father in Perth.
Hawton told the Herald it’s been challenging taking on the blokey world of boxing, but she’s determined to raise the female fraternity’s profile and her December bout was a big step.
Her trainer, manager and partner Elvis Grant Phillips said initially the WBC hierarchy raised eyebrows when the pint-size Aussie was put on a card featuring Aussie Dennis Hogan versus middleweight world champion Jermall Charlo, at the prestigious Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“They said they don’t normally promote women’s matches,” Phillips said.
But Hawton’s megawatt smile and infectious cheekiness won over the boxing heavyweights during a ‘screen test’ and she rewarded them with the night’s most thrilling battle, coming back from a tumble to the canvas in the sixth to win a nail-biter 95-94 on all three judges’ cards.
Hogan bowed out in the seventh after an earlier, devastating uppercut from Charlo dropped him in a heap and took the wind out of his sails; ironically his loss got more attention back home than Hawton’s win.
“It is frustrating for me as a woman, and all I can do is focus on that things are changing for women,” she said.
“You do it for the women of the next generation; you have to be a part of the change to pay it forward.
Scarily for her opponents, Hawton says she’s still got a long way to go to reach her potential, and she wants to unite four title belts from various weight divisions (atomweight’s the lightest).
Phillips agrees, saying he can’t wait until she unveils some of the technique he’s seen in the gym. He’s got the experience to spot a true champion, having previously coached nine world championships, and reckons his partner has more drive than he’s ever seen before.
He’s also known in pugilist circles for his popular Grant boxing gloves, which are worn by the likes of heavyweight champion Floyd Mayweather and Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone.
It’s not the first time Hawton’s experienced international sporting success, having joined the international skateboarding tour not long after leaving school.
But she left the sport not quite satisfied with what she’d achieved, and says this helps drive her in her new boxing career.
She’s hoping to tee up a bout in Australia some time this year, as well as settling on sponsors (Nike’s apparently showing some interest).
“I’d really love to have my country behind me a bit more,” she says.
by STEVE GRANT