Hand takes inspiration from Olympic gold medallist to land state boxing title

WARRNAMBOOL boxer Luci Hand has never met Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson but words from the track star helped inspire her to a state title triumph.

Hand won the Victorian 54-kilogram elite division championship in a unanimous points decision in Melbourne on Sunday, outpointing rival Carly Salmon over four two-minute rounds.

The victory capped a meteoric rise for Hand, who only had her first amateur fight — a loss — on December 16 last year. After losing her first four bouts, she has won four of her next five and is now bound for the national championships at Perth in April.

The 24-year-old has trained twice a day, five times a week for 12 months after losing her first four bouts. The only let-up was five days in Brisbane with her sister last week.

Hand revealed she was worried the break had come at the wrong time in the lead-up to the championship bout, having had the trip planned before the fight was scheduled.

While she maintained her fitness with early morning running and strengthening sessions, she spent time by a pool reading Pearson’s auto-biography Believe.

She said parts of Pearson’s journey and mental approach resonated with her, especially a message of building confidence and being open-minded.

“I have only been boxing for a year and I needed to keep in my mind the competitiveness of the sport and not put pressure on myself or have the pressure of other people’s expectations,” she said.

She returned with a fresh mind to take on an opponent who had beaten her twice before Sunday.

“It really helped.”

Moves coach Rodney Ryan had been pushing her to learn came to the fore in her biggest fight.

“It’s all been about catching up to the other girls. They have all had so much more experience and time in the ring,” Hand said.

“Sometimes the game plan just goes out the window when you step into the ring (because of the pressure). But Rude has been talking about how those things can just happen when you believe in yourself and you train so much. Some of those things just clicked. I wasn’t completely perfect, there were a few right hands that went a bit loopy.”

But she was ecstatic with the result, achieved in front of her mum Jenny, grandmother and a number of other relatives. She said their backing, plus support from other boxers at Ryan’s gym, had been invaluable.

Friend and fellow fighter Bianca Slater was the most vocal during her fight.

The victory earns Hand a place at the national championships at Perth in April.

Ryan said Hand’s commitment to the sport was evident yesterday morning when she beat him into the gym and was preparing for training less than 18 hours after her win.

“It’s one of those examples, she played the way she’s trained,” Ryan said. “The more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed in the ring.

“She was absolutely brilliant.”

Ryan’s other fighter in action, Bianca Slater, won silver in the 57-kilogram elite division in a points decision against high-profile Melbourne boxer/barrister Simone Bailey.

“I think Bessie fought just as well as Luci,” he said. “She was absolutely gutted. She couldn’t have done any more.”

grbest@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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