A photo posted on social media by April Hunter from her holidays could have caused her to be sent to prison.
“It ended up in all the newspaper saying: ‘Boxer risks jail,'” she tells Sky Sports.
Hunter was kissing her girlfriend Jenny Hogg in the photo, and she captioned the post: “Illegal to be gay in the Maldives and other Muslim countries still in this day and age is mental.
“Anyways this is our thought.”
The social post made headlines around the world in February 2020, and drew praise for Hunter for her pride and visibility.
She now reflects: “You can get lashings or eight years in prison for being gay in the Maldives.”
Hunter has since been recognised with a nomination at the 2021 DIVA Awards, with the winners set to be announced on Thursday night. The ceremony is a focal point of Lesbian Visibility Week, which is celebrating the work and activism of LGBT+ women across society.
The Sport category shortlist reflects those whose “achievements have helped promote equality and inclusion on and off the field”.
Hunter jokes: “Do you think it was because of the Maldives picture?
“Me and Jen are very open. It’s good what [the DIVA Awards] are doing – allowing people to be who they want to be.
“It’s a different age now, isn’t it?”
The 25-year-old is undefeated in her first three fights of a career that began a year-and-a-half ago. She won last Friday night in Spain against Elsa Hemat via majority decision and hopes to return to the ring in June in her home city of Newcastle.
She has an ally in Tony Bellew, the ex-cruiserweight champion who is now her manager.
Last September, Bellew posted proudly at the wedding of his brother, who is gay, which “was really positive”, according to Hunter.
Bellew is also good for a pep talk, such as in the build-up to Hunter’s victory over France’s Hemat in Barcelona. She laughs: “His advice to me was: ‘Punch her head in!'”
She is a former football player who was once on Newcastle United’s books until a serious knee injury curtailed her hopes and led to a downwards spiral in her mental health.
It is how she discovered boxing, she says: “I just went to the gym to lose weight. I had put on weight after injuring my knee through football.
“I fell in love with it – in my first session, I was sparring with the lads.
“Even when I was terrible, I was saying: ‘I want to be a world champion’.
“It has saved me from going down a bad path. It has kept me on the straight and narrow.
“I was a tearaway.
“You hear a lot of people with this story. Boxing keeps people right.”
Lesbian Visibility Week runs from Monday, April 26, to Sunday, May 2.
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. Your story of being LGBT+ or an ally could help to make sport everyone’s game. To discuss further, please contact us here.