HYDE boxer Stacey Copeland is targeting a return to action by May after being out of the ring for more than a year.
The 38-year old became the first female boxer in history to win the Commonwealth title in 2018 after defeating Mapule Ngubane by unanimous decision at Zimbabwe’s International Convention Centre.
But the ongoing effects of knee problems have since kept her on the sidelines for more than 15 months, dashing any hopes she may have had about contesting the world championships.
She said: “It’s not so much an injury as it is long-term damage as a result of high-impact sports, but it was a massive disappointment coming off such a high only for my season to be over so abruptly.
“I developed osteoarthritis in both knees after years of playing football, and that made it difficult to train.
“It’s very frustrating and because I’ve been out for so long, I’ve dropped out of the rankings.
“Coming back from injury is a difficult road but I’ve got a determined mind-set and good people around me.
“It’s just going to take a lot of hard work to get back to where I was.”
Stacey spent New Year in Madeira with her boyfriend but said she is “glad to be home” and is “excited to get on with 2020” as she plans her comeback to professional competition.
And thanks to Össur, a company dedicated to improving people’s mobility through the production and manufacture of non-invasive orthopaedics equipment, her training regime is back on track.
Stacey continued: “Having a knee brace has made a massive difference. It’s tailored specifically to my needs and body shape and has helped tremendously towards managing my osteoarthritis.
“It’s allowed me to train a lot more rigorously.
“It’s not just athletes that they work with. They make a big difference in many people’s lives and in my case their help has been invaluable.”
She continued: “We’re probably looking at May before I’m back in the ring for a professional fight, but I got back into sparring just before Christmas and that went very well.
“There’s a team from Newcastle coming down in February for a sparring camp. It’s by no means a fight but there’s a lot of different athletes with different styles that I’ll be sparring with on the day.
“It’ll be good for my development and preparation for facing new opponents.
“I need to get my fitness back up and shake off the ring rust but if I can reach those two goals, I feel I’ll be back on track.”