She’s the only female jockey in Bahrain, deadlifts almost three times her own weight and now, on Friday, Briton Rosie Jessop will add boxing to her already impressive resume when she steps into the ring for her first-ever competitive bout at a unique event organised by the Bahrain Boxing Federation (BBF) at the Dilmun Club.
Based in Bahrain since 2018, Jessop, 33, has been training hard for the past five weeks for the event, called ‘Domestic at the Dilmun’, which is designed to enthuse young children and people from all walks of life into taking up boxing.
“I’ve always been interested in boxing,” Jessop told the GDN in an exclusive interview. “Also, I like challenges. I always try to set myself a new challenge and this will be the biggest one yet!”
Originally scheduled for December, this is the second such event organised by the BBF – the first was held at the Isa bin Rashid Sports Halls in Isa Town last September – and will become a regular feature in Bahrain’s sporting calendar.
Essex-raised Jessop, who rides for business magnate and globally successful trainer Fawzi Nass – and other owners within his stable – laughed off the notion that only five weeks of training for her upcoming bout might not be enough.
“I’ve been training hard with my coach Salman Kooheji,” she explained. “I’ve had 13 one-on-one sessions with him. He’s been talking me through the various processes at play in boxing and I’ve been spending an hour and a half, three or four times a week with him, before working on the punching bag.
“And I started sparring last week and will continue to do so every day until the bout. My riding experience – I’ve been a jockey since I was 16 – and powerlifting prowess have come in handy. I was already quite strong and boxing, like riding, is all about balance. So it syncs in quite nicely.”
Having already made a big name for herself since starting her career as a teenaged apprentice for training legend Sir Mark Prescott in Newmarket, Jessop stands exactly five feet tall and weighed in at 52.2kg at the preliminary weigh-ins conducted by the BBF last Saturday.
But, despite her diminutive stature, Jessop’s fame as a powerlifter of consequence – she has already taken part in a few competitions in Bahrain – has begun to rival her reputation as a jockey par excellence.
Last December, UK tabloid The Sun ran an admiring feature on Jessop’s powerlifting exploits under the headline: “World’s fittest jockey? Meet the woman putting men to shame by lifting almost treble her bodyweight.”
“I had no idea about it until someone sent the article to me,” Jessop laughed. “It’s very flattering but, while I am quite fit, I don’t think I am the fittest. But I can deadlift 140kg, so I’m very proud of that.”
In addition, the young jockey can also squat 97.5kg and bench-press 53kg while juggling a daily routine which sees her waking up at 3am for her morning riding routine at the Rashid Equestrian and Horseracing Club (REHC), hitting the gym for four powerlifting and three cardio sessions a week, and returning to the race track for evening riding sessions.
“All that requires a lot of discipline,” Jessop said. “And that’s what attracted me to boxing – it’s a very disciplined sport. In many ways, it synchronises perfectly with being a jockey and I already have the core strength because of riding and powerlifting.”
And she didn’t mind getting hit on the face or the head once her sparring sessions started and is not afraid of taking punches on her body during the upcoming fight.
“Oh, I’ve been hit by a horse many times,” Jessop laughed. “I’ve been kicked and, once, a horse head-butted me and broke my nose. So, no, I’m not afraid of copping a few punches.”
She listed former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson and current WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury as two of her all-time favourite boxers.
“I’ve also seen Mohammed Ali’s famous fights on social media,” Jessop said. “But, somehow, I’ve never seen women’s boxing. It’s always been male boxers, from the time I was young.”
Now, with her first-ever bout just around the corner – the name of her opponent will be announced on Friday morning – Jessop is concentrating on her own moves.
“Every boxer develops their own style,” she said. “It’s very early days for me yet but I think I know what I will do.
“It’s all very exciting and I am all set to go. The BBF will hold another set of weigh-ins on Friday morning so that’s when my exact weight will be determined.”
But, in between the weigh-ins and her fight, which will take place after 6pm, Jessop will compete in four races at the REHC that afternoon.
“That adds to the challenge, doesn’t it?” she asked, rhetorically, laughing all the while. “But, seriously, riding is my first love and, also, I think that after competing in those races, my aggression might be up to the level I’ll require for the fight!”