Luton boxer Nicola Barke made her long-awaited professional boxing debut at the Circus Tavern in Essex on Saturday.
The Luton fighter, nicknamed the Burmese Python, who has excelled at both taekwondo and kickboxing prior to moving into boxing, was initially scheduled to face Gabriella Mezei who pulled out at the last minute.
A new opponent was sourced on the day of the weigh-in, Barke going up against Kirstie Babington in an exhibition bout.
Although there was no formal decision, speaking about her first outing, Barke, who was born in Hemel Hempstead, said: “All in all, it was quite the rollercoaster of events for my professional boxing debut!
“My bout was initially scheduled against Gabriella Mezei. At the last minute she pulled out and said she didn’t want to fight me.
“We booked her flights, accommodation, hotel and she was fully signed off by the boxing board to compete, but never got on the flight. We even booked a second flight but she still refused to turn up to the airport.
“My manager, Victor Smith, then sourced a new opponent on the day of the weigh-in and the fight was made as an exhibition bout as she had another bout scheduled in a few weeks and didn’t want to risk being stopped in the fight and suspended for 28 days.
“Despite there being no formal decision, I was proud to have put on a dominant performance for all my family, friends and fans.
“It was an incredible experience, especially having first started in ballet, then winning a World title in Taekwondo, a British title in Kickboxing and ranking World number two in Lethwei (Burmese bare knuckle boxing).
“I’ve loved every minute of training and finally feel at home with my new team, as I’m very blessed to have head coach, Terry Steward, in my corner.
“I’m already looking forward to my next fight on October 23.
“I’d like to say a special thank you to the stars behind the scenes, my mother Joan, coach Terry, manager Vic and sponsor WOWHydrate.
“I’m truly grateful for everyone who’s helped me get me where I am today and all the love and continued support.”