Presentation address by Mr Stewart Ross

Vice-Chancellor,

It is difficult to follow a path which no-one else has trodden.  Nicola Adams is a sports woman who has consistently shown that she has the ability and the strength of character to do just that:  from the start, she has been challenging preconceptions and forging new paths to succeed at the very highest level.

Nicola was born in Leeds and attended the local Agnes Stewart School;  she started boxing in a local city fitness club after being introduced to the sport while on a visit to the gym with her mum, Dee, who has provided Nicola with tireless support and encouragement from day one.

Nicola won her first competitive fight at the age of 13, but it took another four years before she was able to find another opponent.  Remember that women’s boxing was banned in the UK until 1996.  Nicola went on to become the first woman boxer ever to represent England, in 2001. 

It was quite apparent to everyone from a very early stage that this naturally humble boxer with the infectious smile packed into her diminutive frame an unusual and unique talent alongside a mental toughness and determination.   Such a knockout combination has enabled her to overcome adversity, not only injury but also, in the early stages of her career, the lack of funding for women boxers.

After winning medals in European and World Amateur Championships, Nicola became the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold medal in 2012, when, to the joy of the nation, she outclassed the great Chinese boxer Ren Cancan in the flyweight final.  She went on to take the Commonwealth Gold in 2014, and just last month won Gold at the European Games in Baku.

Nicola is an outstanding ambassador for the people and city of Leeds and Yorkshire, involving herself in important local causes, and supporting both sport and charities in the city.  

In an age when sports stars so often fail, outside their arena, to live up to their athletic achievement, Nicola stands out as a golden beacon.   She is a genuine role model.   She is an inspiration to all.   And she is proof that, whilst even today gender barriers still exist in sport and society, they can be torn down and new paths fashioned for others to follow.

Vice-Chancellor, I am proud to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Nicola Adams.