Savannah Marshall: Looking To Repeat Over Claressa Shields
By Cameron Temple
Claressa Shields has enjoyed an almost untainted boxing career up untill now. Described by the self-proclaimed ‘best ever’ Floyd Mayweather, as ‘the best ever female boxer.’
She has two World Championship gold medals and two Olympic gold medals to her name from her amateur career. In the professional ranks she is a three-weight world champion after just ten fights, being one of only seven boxers in history to hold all four major belts in a division at once.
Claressa has cast aside, with relative ease, every boxer she has come up against, except one. Savannah Marshall.
“Claressa’s an amazing athlete and a role model,” said Savannah, “she has improved a lot since we fought, but I’ve improved ten times over. I think I beat Claressa every day of the week. I’m not underestimating her, I’m just very confident in my abilities. it’s the biggest fight out there for me and she’s not the type to duck anyone, so I think that fight will happen and it’ll be exactly the same result.”
While the heavy-handed Savannah is yet to make her mark on the professional ranks with a world title, she does boast an illustrious amateur career.
She fought in over one hundred bouts, picking up a myriad of medals, which included golds in the World Championships and the Commonwealth games, as well as attending two Olympic games.
“I was the first ever British female to win a World Championships as an amateur. But the most sentimental moment for me was qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics, because since qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics, I’d had such a bad time. I’d been constantly injured; my motivation wasn’t the same and I just genuinely believe I became stale. It was my second cycle, I was doing the same kind of training, fighting the same people. So, for me actually qualifying for Rio when I’d had such a bad previous four years was a career highlight.
“I really enjoyed Rio, I soaked it all up and it was just a crazy experience. I’m really excited for the squad coming through now to be a part of that because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Contrastingly, Savannah does not hold such fond memories of the London 2012 Olympics, after being beaten in the quarter finals, having been tipped for gold:
“I’d won the World Championships two months prior to the London Olympics, and then I was the best in the world and I was favourite to win gold. I just wasn’t ready for that type of pressure.
“People had me winning the gold before I’d even boxed, I just didn’t cope with it very well at all. Not that I wasn’t good enough, because I believe I was, I’d beat everyone who was in the tournament. It was just the fact of going from boxing in sports halls in Kazakhstan and small cities around the world with a couple hundred people, to boxing in London in the Excel centre in front of 10,000 people, I just didn’t handle it very well at all.”
After the Rio 2016 Olympics, Savannah considered her boxing career over:
“I had no ambition of turning pro after Rio, if anything I felt like walking away from the sport. I felt like I was very hard done by in London and Rio and I was constantly fighting an uphill battle.
“Then I heard news that Mayweather promotions were interested in signing me, and I thought ‘well I’ve got nothing to lose so let’s go for it.’ It was a really good experience and even though it didn’t really work out, it’s an experience that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Savannah’s only fight under Floyd Mayweather’s promotional banner was quite a spectacular one. On the undercard of the ‘Money Fight,’ between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas.
After a brief stint with Mick Hennessey, Savannah, having returned to the UK, now finds herself promoted by Matchroom Sport:
“Matchroom have the biggest platform in the world, and they have regular shows, two or three a month, so you’re going to be active, and that’s what I need and what I want.”
Savannah also has great admiration for Matchroom’s leading lady, Katie Taylor:
“I believe that Katie Taylor has changed female boxing, amateur and pro. She is the face of female boxing. What she has done for the sport with the backing of Eddie is amazing.”
Savannah also pointed out the value of having role models like Katie Taylor for young up and coming boxers:
“Role models are really important, because female boxing was a bit of a taboo a few years ago, even when I was coming through the ranks, but now it’s the norm. It’s rare to come across a show that hasn’t got a female bout on it now.”
“Being a role model is not something I go out of my way to do. I just be myself, and if I can inspire anyone to get into the sport or whatever then it’s a good feeling, but I don’t try and change anything, I just am who I am.”
Savannah experienced her own difficulties when trying to enter the male dominated sport of boxing, as she conceded:
“There was an incident when I was about fourteen. I went to a boxing gym in Sunderland to spar and when I got there the coach made a not very nice remark about me being a female. He said that no females were allowed in his gym and no females are allowed to spar, he made quite a bit of a scene about it and he wasn’t very nice at all.
“At the time I didn’t really want to spar anyway so it didn’t bother me too much, but looking back now it was a really significant thing that happened in my life. From that moment I could’ve gone either way in my boxing career, I could’ve thought, ‘what’s the point in doing it, no one wants me there,’ but I chose to ignore it and carry on and thank god I did.”
One man who has always supported Savannah’s boxing career, is her amateur coach Tim Coulter, who she cites as her biggest influence:
“He’s been with me ever since I first started, he taught me how to throw my first jab. I see him as a bit of a father figure, he’s been through all the ups and downs with me.”
Although much of what Savannah has achieved, has come due to her own hard work:
“I’m just so driven, everything I do, I do for myself, I don’t do it for anyone else. I know where I want to be and I’ll not stop till I get there. People’s opinions don’t really affect me. Unless you’re someone I care about, I couldn’t care less about what you think.”
Savannah was due to fight on April 4th at Newcastle arena for a light heavyweight world title, the weight division above that which Savannah usually competes in:
“I’m a natural super middleweight.” Savannah acknowledged, “The reason for this fight was just because the opportunity is there. I was told there was a chance for me to fight for a world title in my home city of Newcastle, but it’s at light-heavyweight, so I looked at the girl and what she’s about and then I jumped at the chance.”
Despite being slightly out of her comfort zone, Savannah is not too concerned about the weight difference:
“I’m a big girl, I’m nearly six feet tall, so I have got the frame to carry the weight. But for me I know what weight I’m good at, so I’m not going to come in really heavy, because it wouldn’t benefit me at all. I’d rather come in just a few pounds heavier than I normally weigh and be fast.”
However, unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fight has been rescheduled for the 27th of June:
“I only found out two weeks prior to the fight,” Savannah revealed, “my career’s always been stop start and things haven’t gone the way I’ve wanted them to, so I just thought, ‘well, this is just typical Savannah Marshall.’ So, I just took it on the chin, but because the whole world is going through the same thing, it makes it a bit better as opposed to if it was just my fight that was being cancelled, it would be a totally different story.
“I rely on sponsors and fight money,” Savannah continued, “and because I was right at the end of my camp, I’d spent an absolute fortune with hopes of getting that money back from my fight purse. Obviously, with that fight not happening, I’m deeply out of pocket, so it’s got the point where I’ve been applying for jobs just to keep me afloat.”
For this reason, Savannah did admit that she would be willing to fight behind closed doors if needs be:
“At the moment I just want to fight. That world title’s mine, so behind closed doors or not, I want to fight.”
Savannah finished by detailing her future ambitions when the sport returns:
“I’d like to move back down to super middleweight and challenge either of the champions there and then push on. I feel like, especially in female boxing, it’s hard to get noticed and once you have that world title, you’re in the mix and then you can command big fights with other world champions. But, actually getting to that point is hard, because until you’re actually a world champion no one really gives you the time of day.”