Boxing Gloves
27 September 2017

Fighting for your fairy tale: How law student Shelley Watts won Commonwealth Gold

Published on 27 September 2017

For Commonwealth Boxing Gold medallist and law student Shelley Watts, the exhilaration of winning – whether it’s in trial or in competition – is incomparable. Shelley wanted to be a lawyer since she was eleven years old, and along the way, found an insatiable passion for boxing.

Insights spoke to Shelley on what it was like to win gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, how she has balanced studying law with her international boxing career, and to what traits she ascribes her success in both pursuits.

“There is no better feeling than standing atop the medal dais with the gold medal around your neck, singing the national anthem,” Shelley said of winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Two years later, Shelley represented Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “Not winning tore me apart,” she admitted. “Yet the experience of representing your country at the most prestigious sporting event on the planet, and knowing the amount of hard work, sacrifice and dedication it took to get there is a moment you’re proud of, and you appreciate.”

During the 2016 Olympic Games, Shelley was also voted by her peers to join the Australian Olympic Committee Athletes Commission, a role which will see her be the voice of athletes over the next four years leading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Shelley discovered her love of boxing after an operation in 2009 to reconstruct her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). “Boxing was a way for me to get back into some training. I had my first fight on May 29, 2010. It’s a sport that grabs you and takes a hold of you.”

From 2015 to 2016, Shelly honed her boxing at the Australian Institute of Sport.

“I have had several coaches, which has a lot to do with why I’ve been successful. I’ve been able to learn from so many coaches, each with different styles,” said Shelley.

At the age of eleven, Shelley announced to her mother that she wanted to be a lawyer.

“Apparently, it’s been on my mind for a long time now!” Shelley said. “I began my law degree three years before I started boxing. I’ve managed to complete the degree while training and travelling all over the world because I had a passion for law, and I knew that my future involved the law in some way or other.”

Indeed, she feels that pursuing both law and boxing helped her develop similar traits to succeed.

“The traits it takes to be successful in any field are universal. At the College of Law, and during my work experience with a criminal law firm, I have found that preparing a case for trial, or studying for an assessment are quite similar to preparing for a tournament or achieving a goal in the sporting arena. I think sport and law work in conjunction with each other perfectly.”

She attributes her success to discipline, balance and drive.

“I’m a big believer in the notion that if you want something, you have to do what’s necessary to get it done! Being able to have more than just your sporting career is important for balance. To succeed, it’s crucial to make sure all of your time and energy, both physically and mentally, isn’t spent on one thing.”

Next up for the gold medallist: finishing PLT work experience and training for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2017 Boxing Australia Championships.

“It may seem like a lot, but the balance so far is working really well. It is nice to be able to switch each thing on and off when needed. I believe in myself to make it all work – and self-belief is hands down the difference between success and failure. If you work hard, you should believe in yourself – especially when people don’t believe in you! Nobody else can do it for you. That’s why someone else’s opinions or beliefs don’t matter.

“If you’re not going to fight for your fairy tale, nobody else is going to do it for you.”