Fleetwood’s claim to fame is short and sweet, with names such as Alfie Boe and Jamie Vardy to highlight the town’s talent.
One name that stands above the rest is Jane Couch, professional boxer.
Jane’s career took off when she became the first British female licensed boxer in 1998 and won numerous titles in her years as the Fleetwood Assassin.
After a troubled upbringing, Couch turned to drugs and alcohol to pass the time. She became involved in street fighting.
Couch’s fight didn’t start in the ring, it first started with ‘The British Boxing Board of Control’ who refused to grant a licence to a female boxer, on the grounds of her being female. Couch claimed sexual discrimination and back up by the ‘Equal opportunities commission’, managed to have the decision overturned by a tribunal in 1998.
From here Jane Couch inspired a generation of female boxers, with major wins such as her fifth pro fight against Sandra Geiger. This won Couch the light welterweight title. But the Fleetwood Assassin’s true triumph came from her impact in boxing.
After paving the way in female boxing, Couch went on to write a book about her journey as a pro boxer and the hurdles she faced. It is no secret Couch’s hometown of Fleetwood inLancashire, has been in an economic decline since the decreased need for the fishing industry from small towns. It made her journey to greatness that bit harder.
After talking to a childhood friend of Jane’s, it was clear that her personality was as well-known as her boxing ability in Fleetwood.
“I remember Jane asking me to give her a boost up to her flat window so she could climb through it, there I was with this world champion boxer on my back boosting her upwards,” added Ginette Moore, who knew Jane in Fleetwood before her boxing days began.
“When Jane asked you to do something, you did it,” she continued with a smile across her face.
As Couch became more recognised in the boxing community her down to earth demeaner did not change but her impact on young women did, a generation of small-town boxers were born from Jane Couch’s legacy.
Couch’s hard work has been recognised within the sporting world and in 2007, she was appointed MBE in the Queen’s Birthdays Honours. Shortly after receiving the MBE, Couch quit the sport.
Retiring on 28 wins, nine by way of knock out and 11 losses, in 39 fights in professional boxing.
Paul Hardgraft is a former boxing coach and a friend of Jane’s.
“You knew the minute she put those gloves on she meant business,” he said.
“I think people saw Jane fight and assumed she wasn’t easy to get along with. She was quite the opposite, very down to earth. Just don’t mess with her.”
It was easy to see after talking to people who knew Jane Couch in and out of the ring that everyone liked Jane as a person and feared her as a boxer.
After her retirement, Couch was awarded the Awakening Outstanding Contribution Award for her part played in raising public awareness and acceptance of female fighters. Four years later she was inducted into the Women’s International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The fight against the stigma that surrounds female boxing is ongoing and will be for the foreseeable future but Jane Couch’s contributions to the sport and women of sport have furthered the cause drastically and gave female boxing a more recognisable name.
Couch is now 52 and lives in Bristol. Couch can be seen often making appearances in boxing news and related stories. The fight she has battled over the last two decades continues for Couch, as her voice is still loudly heard in the female boxing communities.
One thing is for certain, Jane Couch will remain a legend in the boxing world – and in the town of Fleetwood.