30 January 2020

EXCLUSIVE: World title hopeful Savannah Marshall on the man who's completely changed her as a boxer, her friendship with Chantelle Cameron and throwing darts at her Claressa Shields poster

Savannah Marshall's quarter-final defeats at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games have meant she has had to do things the hard way.

While Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor is ruling the roost in women's boxing, Marshall shares a flat in Manchester with her best friend and fellow boxer Chantelle Cameron, grafting away more than two years into her professional career. 

And while the 2012 world amateur champion does not have an unrealistic view of how much she is worth in the sport, she also recognises that if she was a man, it would be a very different story.

“If you’ve got an Olympic medal then you’re going to earn a little bit more, but I personally think there’s very few people that actually earn decent money through boxing, unless you’re a heavyweight," she says.

"Put it this way, I’m a super middleweight woman. If I was a super middleweight man in the position that I’m in, number two in the world, I’d be rolling about in a Range Rover. Instead I’m rolling about in an 06 bright green Fiesta with the exhaust hanging off.

“I know what I want and I’m realistic. I know what I’m worth. I’m not under any illusion that because I’m an Olympian I’m entitled to a couple of hundred grand, I’m really not.

“You’ve got the likes of Josh Kelly, Anthony Fowler, they’re probably on triple what I’m on. But that’s the same in most sports. It’s only really tennis where women get paid equal. Look at football. The women got to the semi-final of the World Cup and some of them are still part-time! So, it’s not just boxing, it’s most sports."

Yet despite the disparity in pay, Marshall now has one of the best teams a female boxer could ask for in trainer Peter Fury and promoter Eddie Hearn.

After starting her career in the US with Floyd Mayweather's management company Mayweather Promotions, the 28 year-old did not fight for nine months after her debut on the undercard of Mayweather's crossover bout with Conor McGregor.

As a result, she decided to go in another direction and returned to the UK to train with Fury, who she had been working with prior to heading out to America for her first pro bout.

Marshall is beginning to build momentum after a stop-start first year as a professional (PA Images)

Between May 2018 and May 2019 she boxed and won five times, most of which were on small hall shows, before making her Sky Sports and Matchroom debut in August last year at the 02.

And Marshall could not be more grateful to Fury for moulding her into the professional fighter she is today.

She says: “I’ve been really fortunate with Peter. He’s a bit of an all-rounder so he does everything. Peter’s very involved in the training and everything I do. I’m really really lucky to get to work with him.

“I call him Mr Miyagi. He thinks the things that never cross your mind and he’s very big on psychology. He’s a very, very smart man and I’m blessed that he’s given me the opportunity to work with him.

"Two years ago I was your typical amateur, straight up, hands high, straight shots. Now he’s got me switching southpaw, he’s got my hands low, he’s got me bobbing and slipping, coming on the back foot. The things he’s taught me do, I’m a totally different fighter."

Marshall is the only fighter, amateur or pro, to have beaten undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields.

America's Shields recently became a three-weight world champion in fewer professional fights than any male or female boxer has in history, winning a super welterweight belt in only her tenth fight.

Marshall and Cameron while on the Team GB squad as amateurs (Instagram: Chantelle Cameron)

And the Hartlepool-born Marshall is confident the hugely anticipated rematch as professionals will happen this year.

“100 per cent (it will happen this year)," she says. "A lot of people say ‘why don’t you fight her now?’ and I say ‘I’ll fight her when I’m ready’. I’m confident in what I can do, so what’s the rush? And when I’m ready to fight her again, I’ll beat her again.

“Don’t get me wrong Claressa is an unbelievable athlete, not just boxer. She is inspiring because she’s a three-time world champion. I’m yet to be a world champion. But it’s just self-confidence and belief.

“I’ve watched Claressa perform and like I said she’s a brilliant athlete and brilliant boxer. But I do genuinely believe I’ve got the power and skill to beat her."

Flatmates Marshall and Cameron are both considered viable opponents for the biggest money fights in their respective divisions in Shields and Taylor.

But despite Marshall holding the win over Shields and Cameron being mandatory challenger for Taylor, neither are talked about in world boxing to the level that their talent merits, something the north east fighter believes may be down to their public image.

Marshall adds: “This is what we say all the time, we don’t think anyone likes us!

"I’ve learnt that in professional boxing you can be the best boxer in the world but if you’re not popular, no one gives a damn and you’ll never make no money.

“So because we keep ourselves to ourselves, train hard, I think that’s maybe where we’re going wrong. But things are going to change for Chantelle for the better. She’s worked hard and she’s waited for it, so she deserves everything she gets.

“We are a little bit crazy, but we keep it to ourselves. You don’t want to see us on a night out! People’s opinions will change!"

“She’s four days older than me. We both got on the GB team at the same time at the age of 18. We roomed together for eight years, the whole time we were on GB. We left GB at the same time. So really, Chantelle is one of my best friends, I know her inside out. She knows me inside out.

There has been a joke between the pair that they have posters of Shields and Taylor up on the walls in their flat, something Marshall jokingly reveals they have very different relationships with.

She says: "I throw darts at mine! That’s the difference between me and Chantelle. Chantelle bows every day to her Katie Taylor poster. I throw darts at mine."

Marshall will return to the ring in April when she steps out in front of a north east crowd in Newcastle.

Providing she comes through, her aim for 2020 is to pick up a world title and then be involved in the biggest fights possible.

And although she may be sick of being mentioned in the same sentence as the self-professed GWOAT (Greatest Woman of All-Time), the County Durham girl is confident a win over Shields may change her life, but won't change her attitude.

She says: “Nah you don’t call yourself the GWOAT. That’s for other people to tell you!

"In 12 months I’d have just defeated the GWOAT, be unified middle and super middle world champion, and I’ll be rolling about in a lovely 20 plate Range Rover living my best life!"

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