The Sky is the Limit for Globetrotting Aussie Featherweight Skye Nicolson


By Arne K. Langvad

What had been a golden era of Australian boxing took a tumble last weekend. Tim Tszyu was shockingly upset by Sabastian Fundora. Liam Wilson and Michael Zerafa were smoked by Oscar Valdez and Erislandy Lara, respectively.

The first opportunity to right that listing ship comes this Saturday when Queenslander Skye Nicolson touches gloves with Denmark’s Sarah Mahoud in the first boxing event at the newest mega-resort on the Las Vegas Strip, the Fontainebleau. At stake is the WBC world featherweight title vacated by Amanda Serrano.

Nicolson represented Australia in the Tokyo Olympics following in the footsteps of her brother Jamie Nicolson who was a member of the Australian boxing team at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. She’s 9-0 as a pro and is coming off a ninth-round stoppage of Lucy Wildheart who went the distance with the likes of Estelle Mossely and Mikaela Mayer. Mahfoud (14-1, 3 KOs) has won three straight since losing on points to Amanda Serrano.

Since turning pro, Nicolson, whose primary residence is now in London, has kept her passport handy. She’s fought only once in her homeland, that a 2022 fight with fellow Aussie Krystina Jacobs in Brisbane. The other eight: twice in New York at Madison Square Garden, twice in Cardiff, Wales, in Dublin, San Diego, Tijuana, and in Leeds, England.

The first of those two appearances at Madison Square Garden was in the big room on the undercard of the historic fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Nicolson’s bout came early in the program which afforded her the opportunity to join the throng in the sold-out arena as if she were a civilian. “That was the best fight I have ever seen and the atmosphere was incredible,” she says, an observation echoed by most everyone who was there.

We caught up with Nicolson last Thursday on her first day at the DLX Gym in Las Vegas. The gym’s “professor emeritus” Kenny Adams was also on the premises.

As we watched Skye work the pads with her co-trainer Eddie Lan, Adams mouthed a few impressions that we jotted down on our notepad: “good balance…nice jab…nice combos…she’s got some pop…..” The 83-year-old Adams, a 2024 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, effectively gave her a 5-star review.

The other member of Team Nicolson is co-trainer Bradley Skeete, the former British and European welterweight champion. Their stay in Las Vegas hasn’t been all work and no play. This past weekend they went and had their picture taken in front of the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, a must-do for many first-time tourists. (That’s Skeete on the right.)


The hot-button issue in female boxing today is whether the ladies should fight 2-minute or 3-minute rounds. Some see this as a black-and-white issue, but Nicolson’s thoughts are nuanced.

“I think 2-minute rounds have been great for the growth of women’s boxing,” she says, while allowing that there may come a day when a longer distance would make more sense. “The 2-minute rounds force the women to fight at a faster pace, which makes the fights more fan-friendly,” she notes, concurring with our thought that Taylor-Serrano likely wouldn’t have been nearly as exhilarating if it had been fastened to 3-minute rounds.

The most prominent exponent of 3-minute rounds is Serrano who junked her WBC featherweight belt when the WBC was unyielding. That gesture did Nicolson no favors as she had become Amanda’s mandatory opponent and Sky’s fondest dream since turning pro has been to lure Amanda Serrano to Australia for a world title fight.

“I found it interesting that Amanda waited until she had 50 fights under her belt and I was her mandatory (before she drew a line in the sand),” says Nicolson with a smirk. Should they ever fight, Nicolson, 28, who has no aversion to fighting 3-minute rounds (“it would actually suit my style better”) will have youth on her side. The 35-year-old Serrano, who has answered the bell for 234 rounds as a pro, has a lot of mileage on her odometer.

Skye Nicolson’s back story is welded to a terrible tragedy.

On Feb. 28, 1994, her brothers Jamie, then 22, and Gavin, age 10, were killed when the car that Jamie was driving drifted over the center line of a highway and collided head-on with a truck. As an amateur, Jamie had been ranked #1 in his weight class and his pro career was just getting started. The brothers were heading to Jamie’s boxing gym in the Gold Coast suburb of Nerang, a facility that would be renamed the Jamie Nicolson Memorial Gym.

Jamie’s parents were born in the UK; her father, Alan, in Scotland and her mother, Pat, in England. They met in England and started a family before migrating to Australia where they opened a shop that sold and installed curtains and venetian blinds. On the side, her father coached boxing beginning with their first-born Allan Jr, a regional amateur champion who is now one of Australia’s most respected boxing coaches.

Nothing can ever expunge the pain of losing a child, but Alan and Pat thought that perhaps having another child might assuage the hurt. In August of 1995, eighteen months after the deaths of the brothers she never knew, Skye Nicolson came into this world. And to her parents’ amazement, she was just like Jamie in so many ways, inside and outside the ring. “Skye came into their lives to heal their broken hearts,” wrote Brisbane Courier Mail sports columnist Mike Bruce for a 2012 story on the Nicolson family.

Nicolson says that although her late brother has always been an inspiration, she never felt any pressure to continue his legacy. She took up boxing at age 12 for physical fitness and got hooked.

Alan and Pat will be in attendance on Saturday at the Fontaineblue when Skye takes the next step on her journey. Alan Jr (26 years her senior) is flying over as well, as is her sister Katie and her husband who live in Dubai.

As for what awaits Skye Nicolson when she hangs up her gloves, work as a TV sports pundit would seem to be in the offing. The lady is photogenic, has a smile that could light up the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, is nonplussed when a photographer sticks a camera in her face, and is very well-spoken.

But that’s putting the cart way before the horse. Sarah Mahfoud is no slouch. She not only went the distance with the indomitable Serrano, but won three of the rounds on two of the scorecards. Moreover, after last weekend’s Waterloo, it’s hard to back Australian boxers with a great deal of confidence. But no matter what happens on Saturday, good things are in store for Skye Nicolson. We wish her well.


Richardson Hitchins and Diego Pacheco appear in the co-features of Saturday’s card which will be live-streamed around the world on DAZN.

Brooklyn’s Hitchins (17-0, 7 KOs) opposes Argentina’s Gustavo Lemos (29-0, 19 KOs) in a 12-round bout framed as an IBF title eliminator at 140 pounds.

Diego Pacheco (20-0, 17 KOs), a stablemate of David Benavidez, meets Colorado’s Shawn McCalman (15-0, 7 KOs) in a 12-round super middleweight affair.

There’s been some confusion about when the event will start. Keep in mind that Matchroom’s last promotion in Las Vegas kicked off in the late morning for the sake of British television. We have been told that the first bell on Saturday for what shapes up as a 7-fight card will go at approximately 2:40 pm local time.

“Welcome to Las Vegas” photo credit: Melina Pizano / Matchroom
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