Alan Hubbard: Acting extra Adams hungry to take centre stage, rather than a walk-on part, in London 2012 boxing ring
Wednesday, 09 May 2012
The Birmingham lightweight, Britain's first-ever world amateur champion, had to be ignominiously sent home early after tearfully admitting there was no way he could beat the scales and boil down to the 60 kilogrammes limit.
It was a controversial episode which may well have contributed to head coach Terry Edwards losing his job, such was the ire of the Amateur Boxing Association of England, despite Britain ending up with an historic three medals, including James DeGale's middleweight gold.
Another gold from "Funtime Frankie" (pictured below, on right with DeGale in centre), however, would have been the icing on the Olympic cake.
An unfortunate phrase, perhaps, in the circumstances...
Which is why the British Amateur Boxing Association, which has taken over as the umbrella body of the sport in the United Kingdom, has devised a plan to ensure nothing like the Gavin debacle can happen again.
What it means is that while Britain's boxing squad members – male and female – hope they can have their cake at London 2012, they certainly can't eat it!
It works like this: every Monday morning a large cardbox box is delivered to all the scrappers in the GB podium squads at the specially converted apartments block where they are housed right across the road from their training base at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield.
Inside is another series of smaller boxes containing their food for the entire week, specially prepared according to their individual tastes and dietary requirements by the same dietician who organises a similar food supply system for the footballers of Manchester United.
The three-course menus, designed to cater not only for weight control but the boxers' well-being, are stored in refrigerators before being either microwaved or oven-cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
This revolutionary culinary regime was explained to me last week by one of the three female boxers now preparing for the AIBA Women's World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, the final qualification event for the Olympics, which start this weekend.
"It's simple really," said 28-year-old flyweight Nicola Adams (pictured below, in red). "We eat only the food provided for us in the boxes – no snacking between meals – and we are weighed every morning to make sure we have been sticking to it.
"Actually the food is very tasty – lots of lean meat, chicken, vegetables and fruit, all in measured portions according to our particular weight class and physique.
"There is even the occasional sweet treat – though no cakes of course!"
Leeds-born Adams, the tiniest member of all GB's elite boxers, is also Britain's best hope for gold when women's boxing makes it Olympic debut in London.
She is currently in China with lightweight team-mate Natasha Jonas from Liverpool and Hartlepool middleweight Savannah Marsh, aka "The Silent Assassin", who also have 2012 rostrum potential.
All three need to make the World Championship quarter-finals at least to ensure qualification for London.
The perky Adams has been something of a pioneer for the sport in this country and has an impressive ring pedigree – twice European champion and the current World Championship silver medallist.
Her Olympic hopes are high because, after losing to China's Ren Cancan in the last World Championships, she subsequently outpointed her in the Stanja Cup, a tight bout that was a battle of minds as well as fists.
The result catapulted Adams into second place in the world rankings.
"The truth is I'm in a fantastic position," she told me. "Training full-time at the EIS (pictured below) is brilliant – I haven't seen better facilities anywhere in the world and the back-up from our team of coaches, psychologists and nutritionists is fantastic."
Built more like a ballerina than a boxer, the svelte Adams has dedicated herself to the sport since her early teenage years. "My mum, who used to do aerobics, took me along to her gym where there were boxing classes – and that was it. I think I was a bit of a natural for the sport."
Now, each week from Monday to Thursday she gets up at 7am to go running with her team-mates up those steep Sheffield hills. "Then mid-afternoon we have an hour's strength and conditioning session that consists of bodyweight and free weights. Again, this varies by the day and week. In the evening we do a couple of hours of pads work, and sparring.
"In all we train four to five hours a day before I head back to my home gym on Friday. All the Team GB boxers – male and female – train together, and while boxing is an individual sport we have a real strong team bond.
"I do go in the ring with the boys – usually against Andrew Selby [the 2011 men's European flyweight champion] who is quicker than me so it helps my speed."
Adams has tiny hands which look somewhat fragile but even when cushioned by 10oz gloves they provide a powerful punch. She says she has never been hurt herself in the ring: "When I was younger I had a few gym wars, but I've never had a black eye or a bust lip. And nor do I have a classic boxer's nose. The worst I've suffered is a fractured knuckle and a broken thumb. I guess I'm too elusive!
"In the amateur game, particularly with the women, it is more about speed and technique, to take the point and get away before you get hit yourself."
She revealed her interest in the sport started because her step-father was such a big fight fan. "I used to sit in front of the TV with him and jump up and down with excitement when the fights were on," she recalled.
"My dad also had a lot of boxing videos and I used to love the Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard fights.
"I saw one interview in which Sugar Ray was saying never really wanted to be a world champion, he just wanted to be special. It's the same with me: I want to do something special.
"I want to transform the sport and make it really something young females want to get into. I just love boxing so much, I live for it."
Although she is a fan of both Ali and Leonard, she bases her style more on that of Floyd Mayweather. "He's the master of defence and an excellent boxer, and that's more my game: hit and not get hit," she added, pointing to her unmarked face. "That was one of the first lessons my coach told me when I first started boxing, and that's what I try to do."
With National Lottery funding she is now a full-time fighter although she doubts she will actually turn pro after the Games because there is not that much demand for women's professional boxing in this country.
"I am thinking I will probably stay for another Olympics after London. Rio  sounds really cool," said Adams.
She once harboured aspirations to be an actor and has had walk-on parts in both Emmerdale and Coronation Street (pictured above). "I'm usually the one you see walking up and down the street, sitting in the pub or in the background of a corner shop or cafe."
The acting began when she went for a part in My Parents Are Aliens. "I didn't get it but they asked me if I was interested in becoming an extra.
"In a few years' time I want to look back on my boxing career and say at least I enjoyed myself. But it's hard not to stop thinking about taking that step up to the podium in London. I think about it every day."
Food for thought, you might say, for a real performer who could turn out be a star at London 2012 – and not just a little extra.
Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world titles from Atlanta to Zaire.