"I owe my life to my coaches": Sheffield boxer Claire Watts says sport saved her

During her battle with depression, Claire Watts from Sheffield attempted to take her own life. Since then, she has turned her life around, and says she owes it to her boxing coaches.

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Claire Watts has been granted a professional boxer's licence, having turned her life around through the sport after a battle with depression.

Claire, a pastry chef from Parson Cross, was diagnosed with depression at the age of 20, and ended up in hospital after attempting to take her own life the same year.

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Six years on, having "found her purpose in life" through the sport, she is now a semi-professional boxer and working towards her goal to be the first female boxer from Sheffield to win a title.

Claire after her first fight on April 8, 2022.Claire after her first fight on April 8, 2022.
Claire after her first fight on April 8, 2022.

Claire said: "Depression is something I have always struggled with, but for the last two years, I've been off medication and have a new lease on life from boxing.

"Someone from school posted a clip of him hitting pads saying for anyone interested to get in touch, so I booked a few sessions and never looked back."

At first, Claire was "scared off" by head coach Steve Burley’s strict coaching style. She came back to Southpaw Gym a few months later, and the pair are now best friends.

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Steven Nettleship, Ryan Rhodes, Jay Castledine, Troy Ramanathan, Claire Watts, Steve BaileySteven Nettleship, Ryan Rhodes, Jay Castledine, Troy Ramanathan, Claire Watts, Steve Bailey
Steven Nettleship, Ryan Rhodes, Jay Castledine, Troy Ramanathan, Claire Watts, Steve Bailey

"I truly do owe my life to these coaches - Steve Bailey, Ryan Rhodes and Steven Nettleship - it’s been like a family. They are such a good support network, and I know whenever I’m feeling down, I can just pick up the phone to them,” she said.

At the height of her illness, Claire was particularly struggling with money and a "rubbish" job which had her starting work at 2am, interfering with her sleep and moods.

Claire now works as a pastry chef at another company which has made a big difference to her life, although she said it is "a nightmare when I'm dieting, because I have to bake all the cakes".

Claire in the ring at SouthpawClaire in the ring at Southpaw
Claire in the ring at Southpaw

She trains three times a week at Southpaw and goes to the gym daily, commuting in from her home in Pontefract, where she lives with her boyfriend.

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She said: "I'm a much happier person now, and more confident. I've gone from a depressed mess to a semi-professional boxer.

"It’s a very serious illness, but there is always hope at the end of the tunnel. If I can turn my life around from how I was feeling, then I think anyone can.

"If you feel like you can't talk to anyone, you have to open up. That’s step one, and then you can move forward."

Ryan Rhodes, Claire Watts, and Steve Bailey.Ryan Rhodes, Claire Watts, and Steve Bailey.
Ryan Rhodes, Claire Watts, and Steve Bailey.

Now aged 26, after telling Steve she wanted to go professional, Claire got her professional licence on Sunday, October 15, following a meeting with 10 members of the British Board of Boxing Control.

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"To be honest, I didn't realise how much of a big deal it was. I honestly didn't realise, until after everyone else told me," she said.

"I have found a purpose with my life. I want to be Sheffield's first female title holder, I want to be the first one to do it. It's a case of having fights and going up the rankings, and taking the opportunity when it arises.

"It be six months or it could be two years, but my coaches think I'm more than capable to get there."

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected].

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