Ruby Else-White has been recognised as one of Europe’s top talents at just 14-years-old.
“It was mad!” Ruby said of the competition in Sweden early last year. Now aged 14, Ruby was just 12 when she won “I’d competed all weekend, and won all my bouts to get the gold for my weight. It was actually really tough because it was all judged on technical ability. There was no power allowed so I had to just focus on my skills. But I didn’t even think about the overall award. I was so shocked.”
“There were 300 girls fighting that weekend” explained her coach, Shaun Weeks of Sturminster Newton ABC “It’s the biggest female amateur championship in Europe. The Indian national team were competing, as were some of the Italians. Ruby was one of the youngest competitors. We were watching the final presentation, and didn’t even think about the top ‘Best Prospect’ award – it’s never left Norway or Sweden before.
There were some great fighters there – but y’know, Ruby’s up there with them. She’s amazing”Shaun Weeks
Ruby also defeated the reigning European champion last March, just before the Covid-19 pandemic stalled her attempt to represent England.
For Heidi Else, Ruby’s Mum, it’s been almost an inevitable journey.
“She’s always been a strong, independent person. A ‘free bird’ I call her.
“I recently found an old drawing of hers from Primary School – the class had had to colour a rainbow and write their wish underneath. Ruby had written ‘I want to go to the Olympics and win a Gold medal for Boxing’ as her biggest wish. I should have known right then!”
Shaun says he knew too, from Ruby’s very first training session.
“she got in the ring as a 7yr old, never having worn a pair of gloves before, and I told another coach that night that she’d be a champion by the time she was 12”
Talking to Ruby over a weekend of a sporting social media boycott raising awareness of online abuse, I wondered if Ruby as a young teen girl had received any nastiness herself.
“It’s something that worries me” said Heidi “It’s bad enough that her sport makes her obsess around her weight – we keep the focus on fitness and health, and never on her looks, but teen girls are vulnerable. It’s a trickly line to walk.
And then Ruby’s had some issues with unpleasantness on social media – particularly when the article was published on Sky Sports about her. It did upset her for a bit.”
Ruby appeared less concerned than her mum, expressing what I’m quickly learning is her usual dismissive attitude to things she doesn’t like.
“I just tell them if they’ve got a problem with me, they’re welcome to bring it in the ring to settle it.”
Surprisingly, it’s not male commenters that give Ruby a hard time online
“No, whenever I train or spar with boys, it’s always really respectful, and it’s the same online. But other girls can be pretty horrible sometimes. Not all, obviously – I have a lovely group of female boxers I talk to a lot, we support and encourage each other, it’s lovely.
But others can be a bit much – I don’t know if it’s because that’s how they think they’re expected to be, but Shaun’s really strong on being respectful at all times.
“It’s mad. Especially as girls are starting to break through to mainstream now – it’s a tough sport, and I just feel like we’d all be better if we didn’t knock each other.
Outside the ring, obviously…”
Ruby peeled off into reassuringly familiar 14yr old teen sniggers.
“It’s been a swift learning curve” said Shaun “Social media’s not really my thing, and I didn’t really expect it from other young female fighters. Though I didn’t expect I’d get personal messages from their coaches either!
But we all sat down together and decided how we would handle any issues online – Ruby’s only going to get more attention, so it was definitely something Ruby her family and I needed to discuss. Ruby’s close to Heidi, and they talked it through too.”
Does Heidi watch her daughter fight, I wondered?
“I do.” Heidi said “and I’ll admit it’s worrying for a mum. It’s hard to watch. The hardest thing. But I want to be there for her every step of the way.”
So what’s next for the local Pocket Rocket? The world’s best amateur boxers will compete in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics – and Ruby has set herself a target of the 2028 Games (she’ll still be too young in 2024). She has already been training with the best national hopefuls in the GB Pathways Squad in Sheffield, and intends to resume the qualification process later this year.
“Nationals in September, hopefully, then the Box Cup, which I have to win for the third year running to retain my title.”
Unknowingly echoing the story Heidi told me earlier, Ruby finished “I really want to win an Olympic title,” she said.