Ellie Scotney could never be classified as your average 22-year-old. Her home is the earthy South East London outpost of Catford. An unreconstructed piece of old London still missing its dog-track and dragging a sly roll-up in the face of any attempt at gentrification. With a cheeky snigger, she terms it ‘Crackford’.
Despite an abundance of temptations, Scotney has entered her 23rd year never having set foot on the sticky floor of a nightclub and retains only one fleeting memory of ever being drunk – a distant, surreptitious visit to a local pub as an under-age 15-year-old. To top it all off, she is a committed church-goer as well.
“I don’t think I ever will go to a nightclub. That stuff just doesn’t interest me.” Scotney tells Boxing Social. Before adding: “But you never know. I might end up like one of those granny’s that has a mid-life crisis and starts going out every night.”
The well-timed and astute wisecracks soon become a feature of our conversation. Every witticism is aimed exclusively at herself and followed up immediately with engaging laughter. It is easy to see why upon turning pro, after a stellar amateur career, that Matchroom swiftly signed her up. You feel that she will be a natural in front of the camera, despite her self-deprecating assessment of her first press conference appearance. “I should have signed up for stuttering lessons after it,” she reflects.
“It was a total nightmare. I really hated it. It’s been the worst thing about it all so far. It was just a crazy experience and I didn’t know where to look or what to say.” But at the same time, she is sufficiently mature to understand that. “it’s all part of the process.”
Despite officially turning over in February, Scotney is still patiently awaiting her first paid night’s work in the ring. She was meant to debut on Matchroom’s David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly card at The O2 back in March until Covid-19 put the hex on her plans.
But despite this unforeseen setback the featherweight remains buoyant and has managed to stay fight-ready despite the privations of lockdown. “The first couple of weeks were a bit abnormal, but apart from that, it doesn’t feel very different. I wasn’t going out much anyway. Going shopping and stuff doesn’t interest me. It’s all been pretty normal,” she says.
“Thankfully the gym is back open now, so I’ve been spoiled in that sense. But we were doing some training outside before then anyway.”
Already Scotney has made the national newspapers, albeit it in a slightly surreal way. It was whilst at home and partaking in some gentle gardening that she found herself in an unwanted altercation with a garden rake. Keen to avoid any unnecessary horticultural labour she absentmindedly trod on its sharp pointy end, only to see the handle rise vertically and hit her squarely in the face. It is the type of unlikely accident that is only meant to appear in the pages of a comic strip or a silent movie. But it proved sufficiently entertaining for The Sun newspaper to run a story on it.
“I am getting so much stick for that,” laughs Scotney. “Literally! It’s a nightmare. I stepped on the end of the rake and it hit me full pelt. I had to take a knee. The first knee of my boxing career. I think I saw something like that in The Simpson’s once, but I didn’t think it would ever happen to me.”
Scotney discloses that late August is now the most likely time for her much anticipated professional debut. “It’s looking likely to be in Eddie’s back garden. But that’s something I’m familiar with, from when I used to fight my brother in our back garden at home,” she quips. Although, how that backyard in Catford compares to Hearn’s lush green acres, under the cool shadow of his Essex HQ, is open to interpretation.
Scotney’s belated debut will be the culmination of a journey that began with a “little fat kid” walking into Southwark’s Lynn Athletic Club. “My brother used to box and whatever he did, I always thought was the right thing to do,” recollects Scotney
“I used to beg him to take me. But obviously, it’s not cool to take your little sister to the gym with you. So, he would always say ‘no’. Eventually, my cousin gave in and took me and, as soon as I walked through those doors, I was immediately in love with it.
“I just loved the aggressiveness and wanted to get stuck in straight away. I think I’ve always had that grit. I’ve always wanted to be better than what I am and that hasn’t changed.”
That self-disclosed grit was in attendance when Scotney won the senior ABA’s in 2017 with a broken hand. “I broke it warming up before my first fight,” she recounts matter-of-factly. “I still managed the three fights on that weekend without any problem. It was a bit mad. I just felt it go straight away. It was my jab that went as well, but to be honest I’m not the greatest of jabber’s anyway.
“My coach just kept my mind off it. I never hit a pad or anything – just shadowboxed. As soon as I got in the ring, I didn’t feel it till afterwards. I just iced it off and stuff. But when you’re in there you don’t really feel anything.”
A 40-odd fight amateur career that also included an English Youth title, culminated with the opportunity to join the GB squad in Sheffield. Despite the kudos and the potential for future Olympic participation, it was a place where Scotney never really settled. “I just wasn’t happy up there. I was there in body but my mind was always somewhere else,” she admits.
“Being away from home added to it. It was so far away and with me, I start itching just crossing the river! My character and style just didn’t gel how it should. I just wasn’t happy there. I’m not very good at sticking to rules, to be honest. I didn’t box to my full potential at all and so I made the decision to leave and turn pro.”
Once leaving the secure, if confining, GB set-up Scotney had little idea of how to plan her advent into the paid ranks. “I walked out of the amateurs into a completely different world. I didn’t have a clue what to do or how to go about it.” But she credits Adam Martin, who she had worked with at the ‘Fighting Chance’ charity for helping it all fall seamlessly into place; including a training tie-up with Adam Booth and the coveted promotional deal with Matchroom.
Amidst this backdrop, the uninitiated could be led to believe that Scotney is now financially well-set in boxing. But the economics of the sport are rarely that simple, with the 22-year-old confiding that she lacks any full-time sponsorship and is currently paying her way via a part-time job at B&Q.
When Boxing Social asks for DIY advice, Scotney admits that, “I haven’t a clue. I’m terrible. I act like I know what I’m doing but I don’t have a clue. If someone comes into the shop and asks me something, I send them to the office and hide for about five minutes.” But so fine-tuned is the Catford prospects comedic self-deprecation it is hard to know if she is being serious or not.
With the likes of Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields dominating the sport at the top end and a whole host of British talent not far behind them, women’s boxing is booming at a domestic and international level. Scotney recognises the contributions of both but cites Jane Couch as the ultimate influence on her career. “Jane never gets enough credit for what she did back in the day. I feel she is such a big part of women’s boxing,” she said. “Without her challenging how people looked at it we wouldn’t be where we are now.
“But I still think there is a perception that when the women are on that’s the time to go and get a drink at the bar. I want to change that. But I do think that boxing for women is starting to come alive. This is a good time to be part of it,” she added.
And for Scotney, nothing but the very highest echelons of the sport will do. “I’m looking to go all the way. Absolutely 100%,” she says confidently. “I haven’t come into it half-hearted, so if I don’t become a world champion I will feel like I’ve underachieved. I know I have a long way to go, but I just want to keep the ball rolling.”
Yet boxing is only part of the story. The thread quietly running through everything and pulling her journey together is her faith. She carries it inwardly and holds it discreetly in a way that would be anathema to the noisy “God in my corner” protestations of many an American sportsman. You also get the sense that such attempts at vocal ‘happy-clappy’ rhetoric would mortify her.
Scotney doesn’t come from a religious family. She laughs that, “If I said to them ‘Come on, let’s go to church on Sunday’. They’d be like, ‘Ellie, what are you doing!’ That’s just how they are.”
Like many, she found her faith while going through a challenging period in life. “I had some difficult times, with injuries and things. I took it out on the people around me. I was probably close to calling it a day with boxing and couldn’t see no light at the end of the tunnel. And that was where I kind of found it,” she said.
It appeared unexpectedly, like a beacon in a darkness that had only got more suffocating following her Aunt’s diagnosis with terminal cancer. Deciding to get baptised together they determined to turn the despair into something positive. “It was perfect and a very special time,” remembers Scotney.
She now credits religion with transforming her outlook and providing a sense of purpose. “I just look at life differently now and it has a real warmth around it. It helps with my mindset and how I approach boxing,” she said. “When you get setbacks it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself, but I just feel like I’ve got a plan now. Boxing’s just part of it.
“I know I’ll eventually end up where I need to be at the right time and the right place.”