The Game Changers

Caroline Dubois: Strong women demanding respect

November 07, 2023 Sue Anstiss Season 15 Episode 3
The Game Changers
Caroline Dubois: Strong women demanding respect
Show Notes Transcript

Professional boxer Caroline Dubois is Youth Olympic champion, World Youth champion, four-times European Youth champion, Team GB Olympian and now IBO lightweight Champion. 

A pioneering female athlete with a stellar professional record of 8 wins no defeats and 5 knock outs, Caroline is known for her immense power and her explosive punches.

Caroline talks openly about her recent IBO title and her ambitions to win more World Titles.

Sharing her experience of being a young athlete on the British Boxing pathway, we explore how she overcome disappointment from Tokyo 2020, why she gave up her dream of Olympic Gold to turn professional at just 19 and how she copes with feelings of regret.

We talk about the different between amateur and professional boxing as an athlete, the incredible growth in the visibility of professional women’s boxing and why she won’t be trying MMA anytime soon.

Caroline has witnessed huge changes for women in boxing from the days when she pretended to be a boy so that she could train in a boxing gym, but she believes there’s still much that need to change - primarily more respect for female fighters. 

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast through a National Lottery award.

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a National Lottery award.

Find out more about The Game Changers podcast here:

Hosted by Sue Anstiss
Produced by Sam Walker, What Goes On Media

A Fearless Women production

Caroline Dubois: Strong women demanding respect 
Sue Anstiss 00:04

Hello and welcome to the Game Changers. I'm Sue Anstiss, and this is the podcast where you'll hear from trailblazing women in sport who are literally knocking down barriers and challenging the status quo for women and girls everywhere. What can we learn from their journey as we explore some of the key issues around equality in sport and beyond? I'd like to start with a big thank you to our partners, Sport England, who support the Game Changers through a national lottery award. 

My guest today is professional boxer Caroline Dubois. Youth Olympic champion, World Youth Champion, four times European Youth Champion, team GB Olympian and now IBO Lightweight champion. Caroline's a pioneering female athlete with a stellar professional record of eight wins, no defeats and five knockouts. Known for her immense power and explosive punches, Caroline’s incredibly popular with fans and already a real name in the sport. 

So, Caroline, can we start by talking about this weekend's fight? Firstly, huge congratulations. What a result for you. How are you feeling now? 


Caroline Dubois 01:53

Yeah, it was a great result and I'm very happy with the win. Getting the win is the most important thing and it just pushes you on to the next goal. Yeah, I'm very happy that I was able to get the IBO belt and a lot of experience gained. 



Sue Anstiss 02:09

Absolutely, and obviously you worked a long time to get that first world title fight. But how do you actually feel in the ring in London on Saturday night? 


Caroline Dubois 02:20

No, it felt good. Being in the ring, in the professional ring, as many people will tell you, is very different from being in the sparring ring or this amateur ring. It's very different. It's a very different intensity, it's a very different look, it's a very different perspective and I'm still getting used to that. I'm still getting used to getting comfortable in the ring and hopefully I felt like this time was probably the most comfortable I felt and I think it's only going to get better. 


Sue Anstiss 02:49

And there's been a lot of talk hasn't there about your next fight and potentially you wanted to fight. Katie Taylor, for those not familiar with boxing and you're the first current professional boxer I've had on the podcast but can you explain a bit more about how that process works in terms of who you're next able to fight? So even if you want to fight for title fights, it's obviously a process to go through. So how does that work? 


Caroline Dubois 03:13

Yeah, so there's a process that you have to go to as a professional boxer. There's four major belts and Katie has all of them. I've got one of the IBL belt but she has all the other belts and if I wanted to fight for those belts or get a shot at any of those belts I'd have to go through her. But currently she's got a rematch with a Chantel Cameron. She lost the first fight and she's fighting Chantel Cameron and they're going to be fighting a heavier weight division. So I have to wait for that to happen. Depending on how that goes whether she wins, whether she loses,  hopefully she comes back down in weight to my weight and decides to defend her belts. If she doesn't want to do that, hopefully we can put pressure on the belts organisations, the people who are running the belts, to vacate a belt and then I'll be able to fight for one.


Sue Anstiss 04:07

It's an interesting kind of world when you're not used to that, really, in terms of people having it and holding it, and I guess there aren't championships in the way there are, we'd expect with world championships or Olympic games. There aren't certain times a fighter holds on to that. Would you consider changing weights to have the chance to progress in other belts, or is that the weight that you're at now? 


Caroline Dubois 04:26

Definitely I would consider. But it's unfortunate because the weight above 140, the girl who Katie Taylor's fighting,  Chantel Cameron, has got all the belts at that weight as well. So it's the same sort of situation.  At 140 and 135, all the belts are tied up. The next weight division is 147, and the belts are pretty much tied up there. So you know, women's boxing isn't that deep. We haven't got as many faces, as many names, and so the belts tend to all hold in one or two people's hands. And that's the situation we're just going through. We're just waiting. Of course, if an opportunity came up for a massive fighter, a heavier weight, 140, 147, I think you know I'll be crazy not to take it. So yeah, I'm just waiting for whatever comes up and continuing to learn, continue to grow, continue to get better, and waiting for whatever comes my way. So when the opportunity comes, I'll be ready. 

Sue Anstiss 05:18

Yeah, that's brilliant. It's kind of fascinating as well, I guess, from someone from slightly outside. My dad was a boxer actually, but I probably wasn't, wasn't as close to it. I'm a boxer, but it's been interesting to kind of follow and see how the women's kind of categories and the opportunities that are different to the men's. You're clearly very ambitious and kind of confident from the interviews I've seen. Has that always been your approach in boxing and more generally in life? 


Caroline Dubois 05:43

I'd say in boxing I've always been confident. I feel like, you know, for some reason, some crazy, crazy reason, God has given me this opportunity. My skill, my talent, all of that is God given and I have to take time to appreciate that and respect that and let that be known. But so in the ring, when I step in the ring, I feel like that's the time when I'm the most confident, the most able, the most, you know, comfortable. Outside of the ring I'm still trying to catch up. 


Sue Anstiss 06:14

I like that. That's very honest. If I could take you back to your childhood. You came from a big family, so can you tell us a little bit more about life growing up? 


Caroline Dubois 06:24

Yeah, I came from a big family, very sport oriented family. My dad Daniel DuBois, who obviously is boxing as well, and I have two other brothers and they all boxed and, yeah, it was a very sports orientated family. Boxing was forefront, the most important thing and something that we all strived and trained towards, and I took up a lot of time in our lives. 


Sue Anstiss 06:50

And you started at a time when all competitive boxing clubs and the Olympic boxing competitions were exclusive to men. So what was your motivation at the time? 


Caroline Dubois 07:00

I actually don't know. When I started, I was nine years old and there was no Olympics, there was no amateurs. Well, there was amateurs, but there was no like anything, any goal towards any amateurs. At the time, there was Leila Ali and she had just won a world title and I know she had become pretty successful at the…as a professional and so I guess when I started, she was just somewhere that I was vaguely aiming towards. But it was until 2012, when the Olympics happened and Katie Taylor turned up, Nicola Adams turned on the scene, Kasha Shields and Natasha Jonas,  these girls all turned up that I was able to say that's what I want to do, that's where I want to go, that's where I want to aim, and I think that those girls before me were giving me that shot, that opportunity, that goal 


Sue Anstiss 07:50

it's so true, isn't it? As we look to the others, that kind of made that pathway too, as you are now, for other young girls coming through, cause there were, as you say, some all-girl amateur boxing clubs when you were starting out. But that wasn't the path that you chose, so you went to fight I think was it the Repton amateur boxing club as a girl. So how was that experience and how were you able to fight there as a girl? 


Caroline Dubois 08:12

So, yeah, there were a female boxing clubs, but they weren't very serious. They were very like no sparring, no contact. No, it wasn't very serious, not very intense and not what I wanted, you know, I wanted to box. I didn't want a female box, I didn't want to… I wanted to box and I guess my dad realised that, and he took me to the boys gym,  Repton amateur boxing club but it was a boys club, so we had to pretend to be a boy. I said my name was Colin and I joined the club and, yeah, it all kicked off from there. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Walking into the gym, it was amazing, it was, it was very good, it was everything that I needed at the time and, yeah, it was great. 


Sue Anstiss 08:51

It's interesting, isn't it? So I have had the good fortune talked to lots of professional footballers, but many of whom,  similar stories. Rachel Yankee and others who cut the hair short pretended to be boys, you know, in order to get the chance to play at that top level too. So, I guess, when you’re  in a football team not almost you would be lost within a team, but you kind of think you're one of many. But actually to go and box in a gym and to position yourself as a boy, that really is something. So what kind of what happened? How did that end in terms of their finding out you were a girl in the gym? 


Caroline Dubois 09:26

So basically what happened was they got me a fight and I would have had to… yeah, so when you have a fight you have to see the doctor and you have to get a medical done and obviously you know that would have been pretty catastrophe. So we moved gyms, we went to Del Youth and instead of saying I was a boy, we started with the. You know, I said I was a girl, my name is Caroline, I want to join. I've been boxing that reptile for so long. I've been sparring the boys, so, there will be no problem. And, I just said, you know, just give us a chance, let me show you what I can do and if, if you like what you see, then let me join and if not, we'll move on. And I sparred and he said come in Tuesday, because I surprised him and opened his eyes to my ability and he just accepted me and took me in. 


Sue Anstiss 10:17

That's brilliant. Do you think if your family had been involved in other sports or athletics or football you might have taken up a different sport? Do you think it is almost like your family's love of the sport that drove you to that? 


Caroline Dubois 10:29

Yeah, I did do running. I did running, I did swimming, I did gymnastics, I did hurdling,  long… I did loads of different sports. So I definitely, you know I enjoyed. I enjoy sports. It's fun, it's exciting, it's accelerating, you know, you get to challenge yourself. But there was something different with boxing. I don't know why. That's why I said it's crazy that this is what chose me and I'm just grateful that God has given me this opportunity because you know, I could have been good at anything and it was boxing that was good. I was boxing that really caught my eye and gave me that drive and I was special at it. You know, I would have been good at all other sports, but boxing I was special at. 



Sue Anstiss 11:09

Yeah, absolutely. I read a lovely piece about one of your ancestors, sylvia Dubois, who was an African-American slave in the 18th century who won herself freedom as a bare knuckle fighter. Can you tell us a little bit more about her story? 


Caroline Dubois 11:24

Yeah. So Sylvia Dubois, she was obviously a slave and she was being very ill treated by you know the slave mistress, and back in the day it was very hard for you know them to get respect and given what they wanted and what they deserved. And,  I guess you know, it just all boiled over and one day she just fought back and attacked you know the slave mistress that was mistreating her and abusing her, and she fought back and you know beat her up and instead of you know, getting lynched or killed, as which would have been as the standard as back in the day, if you fight back, if you look at someone in the eye, they gave her freedom and they gave her, you know, a place to stay and gave her a home. So you know she was able to literally fight for her freedom, fight for respect. You know she stood her own. She didn't let anyone tell her and dictate her life. 


Sue Anstiss 12:16

So, yeah, and how much does the thought of her as a strong, independent you know, woman in your heritage inspire you as well too. It's a really powerful story, isn't it? 


Caroline Dubois 12:26

Yeah, definitely, it's an amazing story. It's a story that isn't just spoken for me, it speaks for, you know, loads of black women in America and England that are not given the respect, not being treated like women, are not being treated with the same respect that other races are given. Being strong, being able to fight for yourself is not, it's not a masculine thing. It's a thing that we've been doing for all our lives. You can trace it back from the beginning of time. We've been doing it, we've had to do it, and you know we're powerful women and we fight for our own, we fight for our families, we fight for our kids, and that's that's an amazing thing. 


Sue Anstiss 13:05

Absolutely, absolutely. I love the idea that you've got that almost that fighting spirit in the family DNA as well, too, when you look across your siblings and the whole family there. In 2018, you received Sports Aids One to Watch Award, and you were named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2019, and BBC's Mike Costello said of you I'm tempted to call Caroline Dubois the best female boxer I've ever seen. So did that at the time add more pressure, do you think for you to perform, or does it just kind of boost your confidence? 


Caroline Dubois 13:40

No, it didn't add pressure. I don't feel… it's weird. I don't feel pressure when people say things like that. It just makes me feel,  wanted to train harder because now I don't want to let them down and I know how good I am. I train every day in the gym. I spar boys, I spar women bigger than me, older than me, stronger than me and I know how to hold my own. So I got that belief in me. It's just like,  when people say that they're just reassuring me and letting me know that I'm on the right path and I'm doing the right thing, that people are taking notice and it makes me want to train harder than that. I don't let anyone down. I don't make them talk back on their words and stuff. 


Sue Anstiss 14:21

Yeah, regret what they said at all. You live up to all those expectations. That's fantastic to hear and I guess, going back in terms of your progress through to where you are today, you moved to Sheffield to train with the GB team, so what was the process from being a young female boxer to getting you into that GB squad? I imagine that was super competitive. 


Caroline Dubois 14:42

Yeah, it was incredibly competitive. Competitive is the exact word, it’s what it was. 

Basically, when I was 15 to 18 years old, you fight kids that are your own age and as soon as you get to 19 years old, you're senior and you can fight anyone any age, you can go to the Olympics and stuff like that. And so when I started to turn over from youth to senior, I started to get scouted by the GB team, which is where you know go to the Olympics. That's the Olympic national team, and they were looking for prospects and people that could potentially go to Tokyo. And so I started to get scouted because I had so much success as a youth. I won the Europeans five times, the Worlds, the Youth Olympics I won everything, basically and so I got scouted and I got brought up into the GB team and, yeah, it all kicked off from there. There was a massive race between me and five other girls to get on the Olympic team and to be able to get that chance to punch our tickets onto that Olympic plane.


Sue Anstiss 15:52

I was going to ask you about that, a) how tough it was to move away from family and friends and to move to a whole new place in Sheffield where you're training, and then also how intense that environment must be. As you've said, you're training and living with the same girls that you're competing with for a place to represent the country, so kind of how does that feel for anyone that's not been in that kind of environment?


Caroline Dubois 16:11

Yeah, it was very intense, it was very competitive, it was very hard. You know, every day you wake up, we get up at like, let's say, seven o'clock. We weigh in, you go running, then you come back, you eat, you sleep if you want, you have S&C. You come back and then you spar, do boxing in the evening, and every single session the running, the S&C and the sparring you're getting judged and you're getting compared to those other girls. Every time you step on the scales if the numbers aren't right you've got five other girls who are coming in with the numbers being right and it's very competitive, because I was the youngest on the team and I was just feeling like I was very up against it and I was very immature. And I realised how immature I was when I started to be surrounded by adults and girls who were 29 and 27 and they were taking the sport so seriously. You know, I was so naturally gifted in terms of the boxing, but the other side of it the diet and the making, the boxing and the lifestyle I still wasn't used to that. You know, it just came so naturally to me that I didn't have to worry about those things. But as soon as I started hitting a certain age, I had to start worrying about those things because other girls they were showing me what I needed to do. I had to be good at all, across the board, not just in the boxing ring. I had to be good in my boxing as a lifestyle. I had to be good on the track. I had to be good on the S&C and it was just very competitive. You can imagine, every day you spar, you have to spar good because you know the coaches, they're taking notes and they're saying who am I going to send to the Olympics? And every time you spar, every time you run, every time you do SNC, it's just very, very competitive. 


Sue Anstiss 17:49 

Yeah, it's tough, isn't it? It is tough, as you say, coming in so young to that environment, but learning that opportunity to learn from others around you too. You mentioned that you obviously went to the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina I think that was in 2018 and won gold there. So what was that experience like?  


Caroline Dubois 18:11

It was amazing. It was like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.  That team, 1000 kids went, and  to the real Olympics, only three people, were able to go and that was just very eye-opening for me. And the fact that I was able to be one of those people was very eye-opening and very privileged and it just showed me all the hard work and all the dedication I had put into the sport and the Youth Olympics was great. It was a really, really, really good experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You know they had the whole set up. It was like the Olympics. We had our own little village, we had the bubble, we had the tournaments, the different sports and athletes. It was great. It was really, really cool. 


Sue Anstiss 18:54

That's fantastic, isn't it? I can kinda hear that whole village experience just seems so amazing. As athletes from different sports as well, too, when you've been used to kind of being with athletes in your sport, you obviously went on to the Olympic Games in Tokyo with a really clear ambition to win gold, and sadly that wasn't to be. So can you tell us a little bit about, I guess, that experience and how that left you feeling immediately afterwards? 

Yeah, it was a very hard experience. I remember qualifying for the Olympic Games. The qualifying experience was so hard. It was so very hard because usually when you go to Olympic Games you have three chances to qualify. 

I remember going to the European Games in I think it was 2020 in London and then COVID happened and lockdown happened and we all got shut down and obviously the Olympics was in jeopardy. Loads of people in Japan were saying that they didn't want to host it because of COVID and stuff. I just remember that, you know, we got all got told out that we've only have one chance to qualify now,  it's just going to be the European Games, you know, and if you fail, then that's it. There's no chance you're going to be able to go to the Olympics. So it was very intense. I went to the Europeans and I got silver. It was very interesting experience for me and I learned so much about myself going to the Olympics. There was this girl that I was always used to share with,  Charlie and I remember me and her both managed to qualify and we were like every time we walked around we were like ‘Damn we’re at the Olympic Games’. It was insane. It was, you know, growing up at like 11 and watching Katie Taylor, Tasha, Nicola Kasha Shields at the Olympics. And now you're in their shoes, you're walking out to the Olympic arena, you're walking out to the boxing ring. It's such a surreal moment, such a pinch me moment. I just look at the positives and the experience as a whole and it was a good experience. 




Sue Anstiss 20:54

Absolutely. I do sometimes feel not tohat we get too hung up on gold, but I do think we get too hung up on gold,  because the very fact of getting to Olympic games, competing in Olympic games, you know, sometimes I just think, generally within the sport,  it's all about the medals and actually is so much more to have achieved, to have been there in itself. So I guess, in terms of you personally, what did you learn from that experience of perhaps not achieving what you had set out to do so in Tokyo? 


Caroline Dubois 21:22

I learned the most important thing is that boxers,  that being skillful is not always enough and being good and wanting something as bad as you want it is not always enough. You have to train for it, you have to dedicate your life and there's going to be people that can do that. So, you know, I always try to imagine that if you're good, there's always going to be someone that's better than you. So what can you do to beat them? And that's what boxing is all about. What can you do to step in the ring with somebody and be able to beat them? What you have,  may or may not be enough, because they're going to come with the exact same energy. They want to win just as much as you do. They have their own families that they want to, you know, win and bring the medal back for. 

And it's not just about you boxing, even though it's a selfish sport, it really opens your eyes that there's other people who have their own lives and their own aspirations and dreams, and you've got to really not just beat them in the ring, but you have to beat that aspiration and their dream and their desire, as well as their ability, and I was able to learn that and that experience of knowing that, okay, I'm very a good boxer, but I have to have more than just being a good boxer now. I have to be disciplined, I have to be an athlete, a good athlete, and I'm learning that even now, today. I'm still making mistakes, still doing things wrong, but I'm 22 and I'm stepping up fast, but I'm still learning. 


Sue Anstiss 22:44

Yeah, absolutely. It's a continual process, isn't it? That is fascinating, that reflection of other people's lives and goals and families, and I've never really thought about it in that way, but that's so true, isn't it? They all bring as much to it,  as you do as an individual too. I imagine after that, your next thought would have been Olympic gold at Paris 2024. Was that your initial plan? 


Caroline Dubois 23:07

Yeah, that was definitely my initial plan. I remember being devastated. I couldn't stop crying. Every time I went to bed I would just dream about being at the Olympics. I would dream about the fact that I lost and how frustrated and how close I was and how far I was at the same time. And the first initial response was for me to say I want to stay on another two, three years, go to Paris. I was very young, I was 19 years old. I was stepping in with kids who were like 30, 40 years old and I knew that I was very inexperienced going into that. So I definitely knew that I could win and it was just a matter of time. But my dad convinced me to turn pro. So I turned pro. 


 Sue Anstiss 23:55

And was that the right decision? Do you feel You've had any regrets or you feel that absolutely was the right decision to make? 


Caroline Dubois 24:00

For a very long time I had so many regrets. I wanted to go to the Olympics ever since 2012. I wanted to win a gold medal ever since 2012. And it's like having a dream since you were a young kid. And wanting nothing more than to achieve that dream. I'm coming so, so close and then just letting it go. It's very hard. It is very, very, very hard, and for the longest time I would lay in bed crying, thinking. I don't want to turn pro, I don't want to do this, I want to stay and I want to achieve that dream because this is what I wanted to do since I wanted to do since I was 11 years old, but I decided. This guy definitely helped with the incentive and it took some time, but I was able to get my mind around it and I realised that when I turned pro, I was able to fight for the people that matter most to me, and that's my brother and my sister. And if I was still an amateur, I wouldn't be able to do that. I would only be fighting for myself. But now, as a professional, I can fight for them and that's the most important thing for me and I can change people's lives as a professional now and it really is a family situation, because when you fight professional, you're fighting for your family and you're fighting for all those people that truly believe in you and you can help them. Literally, you can see yourself helping them. 


Sue Anstiss 25:21

In terms of financially, you mean in terms of money you can make? 


Caroline Dubois 25:26

Yeah, definitely. And all those things, and I was able to do that as a pro and I was able to change my family's life. 


Sue Anstiss 25:32

Yeah, absolutely, and it is fascinating and very honest of you, to state that is the case too, isn't it? You can keep being amateur and have all those accolades, but actually, in terms of what impacts and changes lives,  that is so important and what are the differences you've seen as a professional boxer in terms of the training and competing that feels very different to being part of a team GB setup. How much harder is it or easier? How different is it? 


Caroline Dubois 25:58

Well,  as a professional. You have to love boxing and you have to realise that because, being on the GB team, you get all woken up, you go to the gym. It's very much a team motivation situation. Even if you're competing against people, you're motivated to train because you're surrounded by all these other people and they're all pushing you to the gym. They're pushing you to the track. They have to set runs, they set times. All you have to do is turn up, whereas as a professional you have to get up yourself and decide to run. You have to physically say I'm going to do this, I'm going to take the time out to do this bit and I'm going to improve and strengthen on that aspect and I'm going to be better at that.  So it's very much more self-driven now and I think that's the main different I experience as a professional. There's a lot more technique that goes into the boxing and there's a lot more spike that goes into it. It's more of a dangerous… I would say. Amateur is more boxing and professional is more fighting and wanting to hurt your opponent and beat and really do damage to your opponent and get the knockout most of the times and you're trying to hurt people. You see, in fights people get pushed really hard and they really really get pushed to that point where you don't really see that as an amateur. 


Sue Anstiss 27:21

Yeah, that's really interesting. You were part of history last year when you fought at the O2 on the Shields Marshall first ever all-female card, the most watched boxing event, women's boxing event in history with over 2 million viewers. What was that experience like? 


Caroline Dubois 27:40

Yeah, it was very crazy.  I remember seeing those numbers after the fight and being like, wow, that was amazing. I'm so happy to be a part of that. Being at the O2 was a great experience and being at the O2 just made me think that I want to step up quick and I want to be in the mix as quickly as possible, and I think being in that environment helped give me the drive to want to step up and challenge myself. It was a great, great experience being able to see Kaleisha Shields and Savannah Marshall and McKenna Mayer and Alicia Bumgardena all these girls you know it was great. It was really, really good. 


Sue Anstiss 28:20

Yeah, the whole experience of it was amazing wasn’t it? In terms of the sound and the music around it and everything. And how important has the support of Sky Sports been to your progress?


Caroline Dubois 28:53

It's been great, a really good experience. I think they've helped push me, helped give me the spotlight, given me the platform to perform, and for that I'm very grateful. 


Sue Anstiss 29:06

Yeah, I sense when I’m talking to you. It's almost like there is this hunger to get on and progress. Is there a balance that you need to almost,  it's not bide your time, because clearly you are ready and up for it, but what in terms of the advice around you? Is it to get on and to? I feel like you really want to win and be up there at that very top level. How do you kind of counter that and balance that within your life and progress? 


Caroline Dubois 29:30

Yeah, I guess the fear of failure definitely helps, knowing that it's all good wanting to get somewhere. But if you get there and you fail and if you lose, boxing is very harsh and the spectators and the critics can be very, very hard. The moment you win it's great, but you lose, then there's a problem, and just the failing side of it, is enough to motivate me to stay dedicated and committed. 


Sue Anstiss 29:59

Excellent, excellent. It's obviously great news that women can now box in the Olympics and professionally, and that the sport has moved a long way from when you first started even isn't it from where it was, but it's still far from equal. So I wonder what you'd like to see change in the sport? 





Caroline Dubois 30:37

What I'd like to see change. I'd like to see the respect, you know, the same respect that's given to the guys, given to the women. You know Stepping the ring, we're fighting for our families, just like they are. We give it a thousand percent, just like they do, and then we try our best and I just would like to see that same respect. There's still sometimes a little bit of a non-respect. You know the respect, the disparity is not the same and in terms of where we are placed in the cards sometimes, and you see big world title fights being right at the bottom of the cards or overlooked, and stuff like that. But I think it's a matter of time and I think we're heading in the right direction. I think we're moving at the right pace as well, so I don't think it will be long until that's pretty equal. 


Sue Anstiss 31:28

Excellent, yeah, we definitely hope for that and, as you say, it just feels like it's moving in the right direction and the more profile women's boxing gets and the success of the likes of you and other women that you've mentioned, that's kind of helping to drive that too, isn't it? I think, for me, outside, your life might look very aspirational to anyone kind of looking in,  in terms of lots of media and celebrating with sponsors and so on, but in reality, how tough is it day to day, the life of a professional boxer? 


Caroline Dubois 31:58

I would say it's tough because this is what I signed up for. I would say it's hard. The training, the monotonous. When it's hard it's very hard. The dieting definitely takes a toll because constant training and if you get injured it's very mentally like,  it puts you down. 

And it could be a very hard sport because you're in the limelight. If you win, it's great, but what happens when you lose or when you don't perform or something terrible happens and you get so much backlash, you get so much negativity. You can't come from that, whereas if you work to normal jobs, you will get that and the fact that we're in the limelight is very difficult sometimes. But I would say that I'm very thankful that this is… I'm doing something that I wanted to do and this is how I was nine years old and I think there's not many people that can say that they're doing something that they wanted to do when they were nine years old and because of that, it's a blessing and I'm grateful and I'm thankful that I can do what I love, even though it's got its ups and its downs and it's very much a very roller coaster, a fickle sport. This is what I signed up for. So, yeah, I'm very grateful. 


Sue Anstiss 33:07

That's fantastic, isn't it? I spoke to Molly McCann in the last series of the podcast actually, and I realise you’ve still got so much to do in boxing. But is MMA a sport you've ever considered or you would consider? 


Caroline Dubois 33:19

No, I don't think so. I have a lot of respect for boxing, but I also have a lot of respect for MMA and I don't think I'm at this level where I can say I can just jump over and just start kicking people. I respect that. That's a whole different sport. That's a whole different level. Boxing is a whole different sport and a whole different level. MMA fighters realise that when they try to go to the boxing, that this is a total different sport. You could be great at MMA, but you step in the ring with an average fighter and it's a challenge because it's a total different sport and I have the respect to know that I'm good at one thing. This is my blessing and I don't know if I can start mixing it with MMA fighters just yet. 


Sue Anstiss 34:04

It has been reported I'd read there was a bit of family tension in the last six months or so, and I absolutely don't want to pry into your personal life at all, but it must be tough when the family's been such a huge part of your boxing journey, especially when you're celebrating something amazing, as you were this weekend. 


Caroline Dubois 34:23

Yeah, definitely. It's always nicer to have someone there and to have them not there. It's always nice to have support then to not have support. It's always nicer to have support in close ones that know you and have been around you since you were little. It's always nice, but that's unfortunate, the world that we live in and that's not always the case. So you just have to appreciate what you have and it makes you more appreciate what you do have when you lose something. So I'm just very thankful that I have my brothers and sisters around me and I think that's the most important thing. 


Sue Anstiss 34:58

Yeah, absolutely. I could see some of those photographs at the weekend. It's almost like your training and the crew around you become part of that huge support as well, too. It's lovely to see you celebrating with those people.


Caroline Dubois 35:11

Yeah, yeah, definitely. You know I'm at the gym. It's very close-knit. We all see each other day in and day out training amongst each other. You know Ailee, Chris, all these guys and the coaches and the team. So, yeah, we're getting to that level of closeness. So, yeah, it's always great when we win. We all win together. Yeah. 


Sue Anstiss 35:29

And there's no doubt that being a Pro Boxer does take its toll on your body. You can have mentioned that too. They're making weight, you know, getting constantly hit, the intensive training. So does that long-term impact concern you at all? 


Caroline Dubois 35:44

Does it concern me? I mean, there's always concerns that you may not get out boxing the way that you went in. You know you make it out a little bit of punch-drunk, you may come out with some damages, but I suppose the way you have to think of it, this is the life that I'm living and the life that I've chosen. I have to commit to it and in anything you're going to get in life, if I decided to become someone who sits at a desk all day, do an accounting job or writing job or journalism, I'm sure you guys get your own injuries, your back injuries, your neck aches. I'm sitting up higher now. 


Sue Anstiss: I'm sitting up higher now. I'm sitting up higher now you said that!

Caroline Dubois  Even my sister she does lashes and nails and stuff and she's always complaining about her neck and her back and how much pain she's in. So I just see it like everyone, this is a life and life is hard. So this is just the risk and the reward that we get. 


Sue Anstiss 36:43

Absolutely. That's great and I guess just finally, I wonder how long you will keep boxing professionally and if you've got thoughts of life after boxing at the end of your professional career. Yeah, I have so many dreams and aspirations. 


Caroline Dubois 36:57

Yeah, I have so many dreams and aspirations. I hopefully would love to be out the game by the time I'm 30 or retire when I'm 30 years old and hopefully get married and have kids one day and start a family, and I would love to be able to open up a hairdressers and just do like when I leave boxing, I want to leave it behind and happy that I left nothing in the ring and have no regrets and then just move on to the next chapter and do something completely different and not even think about ever stepping back in the ring again. 


Sue Anstiss 37:24

I love that. Actually, it's funny, isn't it? I too, I’m very lucky to talk to lots of athletes who then want to keep in their life. I love that refreshing attitude of actually yeah, that's fine, I've done that, I'll draw a line and move on to the next chapter of my life. 


Caroline Dubois 37:38

Yeah, definitely. It makes me know that all the hard work that I'm putting in now is not going to be forever, and the pain that I'm going through now, whenever I'm dieting or training or sparring, I know that in a few years time this is going to be over and I'm going to look back and I'm going to be happy and I'll probably even miss it. So just enjoy it while it lasts, because it's going to be over soon and when it's done, it's done. 


Sue Anstiss 38:04

I really enjoyed chatting to Caroline and I can't wait to see what else she goes on to achieve in her career. What a fantastic, ambitious young woman she is. 

If you enjoyed the podcast, there are over 160 episodes featuring conversations with women's sport trailblazers and they're all free to listen to on most podcast platforms or at My previous  guets include more elite athletes like Caroline, broadcasters, coaches, administrators, scientists and CEOs from a vast range of sports. 

The whole of my book,  Game On the Unstoppable Rise of Women's Sport is also free to listen to on the podcast. Every episode of series 13 is me reading a chapter of the book. 

Thank you once again to Sport England for backing The Game Changers with a National Lottery Award, and thank you too, to Sam Walker at What Goes on Media, who has done such a brilliant job as executive producer of the podcast since we started it back in 2019. Thank you also to my brilliant colleague at Fearless Women, Kate Hannon. 

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The Game Changers Fearless Women in Sport.