BOXING promoter Nina Cranstoun, better known as the black widow of boxing, or the queen of boxing, is about to conquer Cyprus. This Friday, three of her top fighters from the UK will fight three Cypriot boxers in Nicosia, an event which is not only a boxing match, but a unique experience.
She is one of the very few female boxing promoters in the UK, and certainly one of the most enthusiastic, unusual and bold ones and is extremely supportive to her group of 15 to 20 boxers.
“My shows are 50 quid entry. When people walk through the door at my show I want them to go ‘holy shit’. That’s when I get people. If people are walking through the door and not saying ‘amazing show’, I need to do better because that’s a lot of money,” she said.
The Cyprus event is much cheaper, a mere €10 as it is more of a door-opener “to let the public know we are coming here” and involves eight other fights apart from Nina’s three which start at around 9pm. The venue is the Lemon Park, a hall designed to accommodate all kinds of different events with a lounge mood, which this time will have a boxing ring with room for 400 to 500 spectators.
Next time around, in May, the UK promoter and ten of her fighters will stage a bigger event, this one in Ayia Napa, where around 4,000 people, tourists and locals alike will be able to watch a spectacular show.
Why did she choose this profession? Her father is a music promoter, and an unusual one. “He was the only white man promoting black music in the UK,” she said, “he did it because he was passionate about the music, Reggae, and didn’t care about black or white.”
So promoting something unusual was something she was familiar with from childhood or, as she put it “that desire to turn nothing into something was always in me.” And why boxing?
“Boxing itself is entertaining to watch. It’s an art form, it’s a sport. It is always going to be around, so my aim is to turn it into something positive. Sports of any type are always a way to channel aggression, and my aim is to turn the aggression into a positive energy.”
Not only that, Nina believes she can help change people’s lives. For now, she has certainly changed one, boxer Stacy Dunn’s who faced many struggles in life including time in prison before she started nurturing him.
He is one of the fighters currently in Cyprus and in top form after being with the boxing promoter for 15 months. “Nina provides massive support,” he said, “not only professionally but as a person.”
Nigel Collins is another one who sings her praises. “Not many promoters are like this. Sometimes she has to be stern but that’s necessary. She trusts us and we trust her, it’s like being a family. And since December when I started with her I have been in three fights and am undefeated.”
The boxers are often like kids, Nina confirmed. In fact she is repeatedly called to sort out some minor problems during our interview at the Protaras hotel the small group is staying. According to the promoter “the boxing ring is the loneliest place, the fighters are completely alone there. I have to make sure everything around it is the safest possible.”
The fighters have a routine. They have one fight every three months, and then get two weeks off to do whatever they want with no limits to partying. Then they gradually start training for the next fight, but get to rest again one week before the fight so they don’t run the risk of injury. Nina makes sure they all keep to this regime and are emotionally ready for the fight.
A woman in a tough men’s world? What have people been saying?
“Did I get shunned? Of course I did. They were telling me to go back and be a singer. Making a mockery. And the mockery turned into 2,000 people at my first boxing show.”
Apart from branching out – a show in New York is planned for April as well as the one in Ayia Napa – the black widow now has her own gym in the UK with chandeliers above the boxing ring, one of the many small touches to ensure that women become interested in the sport. There she also reaches out to the community by giving free classes to kids, helping them to get rid of negative feelings. “It is not my gym, it is theirs,” she commented pointing at the fighters clowning around at the swimming pool.
The event in Nicosia is nearly sold out. Those who can’t watch it live can pay the equivalent of £6 pounds to register for a virtual ticket.
Champions Live takes place at Lemon Park in Nicosia from 7pm to11pm on October 28. For more info and tickets