Caroline Dubois pretended to be ‘Colin’ and made boys cry in the ring; now she wants Olympic Gold in Tokyo to eclipse big brother Daniel and honour Grenfell Tower victim

Caroline Dubois vividly remembers the moment her own father told her she had to pretend to be a boy in order to pursue her boxing dream.

At the age of just nine, the youngster wanted to follow in the footsteps of big brother Daniel at Repton Boxing Club and had to keep her gender a secret.

Dubois wants to carry on her family’s proud boxing tradition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo

She told the BBC: “On the car journey to the gym, I remember my dad was like ‘You know, you can’t tell them you’re a girl.’

“I thought it was a joke! I got to the gym and I saw it was all boys and I remember the coach, he walked up to me and said ‘Oh, so you’re Daniel’s brother?’

“He asked for my name, and at first I said Caroline, but I said it so quietly so he didn’t hear me. First name I could think of was Colin.

“So he said ‘Alright Colin, get in the ring.’ I was not afraid at all; I started swinging at this kid, I busted his nose, I made him cry.”

Big brother Daniel is the WBA interim heavyweight champion, but never won Gold at the Olympics

Now at the age of 20, the lightweight has serious ambitions of picking up a Gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Caroline is younger than Daniel, who holds the WBA interim heavyweight title, qualifying for the Games on the same night he returned to action against Bogdan Dinu.

The younger Dubois earned a silver medal in the final of the European Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament in June, losing a split decision to Ireland’s Kellie Harrington.

Inspired by Sugar Ray Leonard and the late Marvin Hagler, it was the Olympic Games of 2012 which sparked Dubois’ interest in female boxing as she witnessed Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields illuminate the ring.

Claressa Shields has achieved all there is to achieve in women’s boxing as an amateur and a professional
Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

As one of 11 children, there was certainly no pressure on Caroline to step into the ring. As well as Daniel, brothers Prince and Solomon are involved in the sport and Caroline is the only woman out of four to box.

Yet her father was determined to help her break down the sexist barriers which had previously prohibited female boxers from making an imprint in the sport.

“I didn’t really notice or care what other people said but I know that it would’ve definitely affected my dad,” she told ESPN.

“Back then, a lot of places would’ve said they don’t want me there because I’m a girl and that would’ve affected him and maybe anyone else would’ve said: ‘Knock this on the head, I’ve got two sons in boxing so let me just stick with them and focus on them, they’re going to make more money out of it because there was no Olympics, nothing really.’”

9: George Groves (26-3)
Former friends turned to foes, Groves and DeGale came from Dale Youth like Dubois

After succeeding at Repton, Dubois moved to Dale Youth, the same gym which produced James DeGale and George Groves, and was looked after by cornerman Tony Disson.

Yet on June 14 in 2017, Disson was one of 72 people who tragically lost his life when a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Grenfell Tower block. Dale Youth, which was on the ground floor, was destroyed as well.

“I remember he was in my corner and he always used to say to me that I was going to go to the Olympics and there was no Olympics even happening for girls,” she added. “So, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about but he also said I was going to go to the Olympics and he was going to put a bet on it.

“It’s crazy to think of what happened but I’m just grateful that there were people like that in my life who supported me and inspired me to do things. There would’ve been no Olympics until he said it.”

The Grenfell Tower tragedy of June 2017 claimed the lives of 72 people and destroyed the original Dale Youth club

Unlike Daniel, who circumvented the amateur game to pursue professional world titles, Caroline is committed to honouring the memory of Disson and pursuing Gold this summer in Tokyo.

Although the journey to the Olympic Games has not been easy, the 20-year-old is adamant she can beat anyone in the world when she performs to her best, like in her qualifier last month against a Finnish phenomenon in France.

She told the BBC: “I suppose I was the underdog because I had this big fight against Mira Potkonen – who was the number one seed in the tournament.

“She hadn’t been beaten in Europe for about four or five years. I was afraid of going out there and folding, of not performing as well as I could and then living with that regret for the rest of my life.

Dubois, 20, is hellbent on taking home the top prize this summer

“But I knew if I lost to this girl, I wasn’t going to the Olympics! So I said ‘I ain’t losing to you, no way.’

“If I get in the ring and perform, I will beat anyone.”