Eventually, in 2009 at the age of 40, she was obliged to retire after a scan revealed damage to her brain. Her retirement was not, initially, a contented one. Pursued by a sense of guilt, she suffered a breakdown.
“It was like you’d done something wrong,” she says of her career. “Even with my own parents I felt embarrassed, like I was the bad guy. After we won the case, the press really turned against me. There was one boxing correspondent who slagged me off at every opportunity. I’d be called an animal, a freak, barbaric for a woman. I spent my whole life feeling like I was in the wrong. In the end it all came crashing down on me.”
She came out of her post-retirement depression by the simple process of staging a funeral for her career.
“It was my therapist’s idea,” she explains. “I went along to a cemetery, dug a hole and put a box in it and said a few words. I thought at first, this is stupid. But it worked.” So much so that when her friend, Paul Speak, Ricky Hatton’s manager, suggested she write a book about her experience, she was happy to go back over territory that once caused her so much anguish.
“Jane was our friend, but Ricky and I had no idea what she was going through,” Speak, who is now her adviser, says. “She always seemed happy and vibrant. We never knew how she was being exploited. She never made any money.”
“Every time I saw Paul and Ricky I wanted to tell them, but I couldn’t,” Couch adds. “I was embarrassed that I was hungry.”
The book was published in September. And since then she has found herself, for the first time in her life, hot property. A bidding war is under way for the rights to turn it into a movie. That was why she was in Soho ahead of this interview: she and Speak are negotiating with production companies. The interest is understandable. The story of Jane Couch, boxing pioneer, is an extraordinary one.
“The Final Round” by Jane Couch is published by Pitch and is available now.