Ask Commonwealth Games boxing gold medalist, Shelley Watts, if she thinks she’s a better boxer now than when she won her gold 12 months ago, and she’s quick to reply.
“I think I’m a better boxer than I was three weeks ago,” she laughs.
Which must be a worry for the rest of the field who will line up against her at this week’s Australian Boxing Championships on the Gold Coast.
Watts will begin her campaign for gold at the Paradise Point Bowls Club tonight, with a swagger befitting her current standing in international women’s boxing, but a humbleness that comes from growing up in a small country town.
“I’m really lucky to come from a small town (Laurieton, NSW) that still classifies me as ‘just Shelley’,” Watts said.
“There’s nothing special there, the kids are amazing, they kind of treat me like a sister, and I get to give back to them and they really make things worthwhile.
“Other than just wanting to train harder, and having higher goals and expectations, the gold medal hasn’t really changed me at all.”
And she’s loving boxing right now. Which is lucky, considering she had to put a potentially lucrative career in law on hold to become a close-to-skint Australian boxer with Olympic medal aspirations.
But while it’s not bringing her money, boxing is teaching her plenty of other valuable life lessons.
“I always thought I was a fit girl before boxing, always coming from an athletic background, playing soccer etc,” she said.
“I always thought I had pretty good discipline, and I did. But boxing definitely highlights it more, how much we’ve got to do and how much more you have to work to succeed.
“I don’t know that necessarily winning that Commonwealth Games gold medal is the reason why I’ve become more focused and a better person. I think that’s just boxing generally that’s done that for me.”
After riding the euphoria in 2014 of a Commonwealth gold medal and an outstanding quarter-final result at the World Championships, Watts did find it a bit more difficult finding major goals for 2015.
There are no Olympics, no Commonwealth Games, no World Championships. For an athlete who thrives on challenges, this year was always going to be a challenge in itself.
“It was a little bit harder to find goals this year,” she said.
“I do try and set myself goals at the start of each year, so some of the goals I have set myself are to go out and win a national tournament, and continue this momentum that I have.
“I think with Rio in the long term as a goal it definitely is easy to motivate myself, I don’t have to find any extra motivation with no Worlds this year.
“It’s just about finding goals that aren’t as crazy or insane as winning gold medals at Commonwealth Games.”
Winning Australia’s first ever women’s boxing gold medal has had consequences for Watts, expectations that fortunately she’s been happy to embrace.
There’s the unwritten clause that comes with winning a major international medal that you will become the face and the role model for your sport.
Her Glasgow performance was a Godsend for boxing in Australia; what has been an even bigger bonus has been the enthusiasm she has shown as the poster woman for a sport that suddenly became a very real option for hundreds of fit Australian females.
“If I can step up and be a role model as someone they want to aspire to, that’s fantastic,” Watts said.
“Does it put more pressure on me? I don’t think so. I really like that. If it’s going to increase the profile of women’s boxing, that’s great.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback within the boxing community that there are a lot more women wanting to get involved. You do elite sports, and that comes with the territory. If you classify it as pressure, than you let it get to you and then it becomes a challenge for you.
“I don’t think that’s pressure for me. I love the idea of bettering myself to make people a little more proud of me or make people aspire to be a little bit more like me. I love the role.”
Shelley Watts may well be a better boxer today than she was even three weeks ago. We’ll learn how much better as this week progresses.
More importantly, 27-year-old Watts has ensured that the sport of women’s boxing in Australia is much better than it was 12 months ago.
And those, your Honour, are the facts.