This may sound stupid – but missing out on the World Championship final might just be the best thing to happen to Savannah Marshall.
Four years ago, Marshall struck gold at the worlds in China, sweeping all before her, including the ‘invincible’ Claressa Shields.
I don’t want to sound like sour grapes though, all I’ll say is I thought the judges were a bit unfair on herTIM COULTER
The Hartlepool girl went to London as favourite to become the first Olympic women’s middleweight champ.
Weighed down by expectation, Marshall fell at the first hurdle in the capital, though it has to be said that she got a bad decision in the quarters.
A points defeat to her rival, Nouchka Fontijn, at the World U75 kilo semi-final in Kazakhstan – her fourth on the trot to the Dutch girl – will hurt the Headland ABC star.
But she can head to Rio, not only with a world bronze medal in her possession, but with no pressure and the confidence that she can take on all-comers.
Her self-belief, damaged by three successive first-round eliminations at major events, has been restored by a run of three wins in Astana, including the number six and four seeds.
Marshall gave it her all in a bid to add the number two seed to her list of victims, but had to concede defeat to the sharp and elusive Fontijn.
While this was no robbery, Savannah was not aided by the judges, who all scored it for the Netherlands boxer, Mariusz Gorny (40-36), Rakhymzan Rysbayev (40-36) and Jingjing Zhang (39-37).
Headland coach Tim Coulter said: “Amateur boxing is supposedly score on the professional 10-point system now and if that was a pro contest, Nouchka would not have got it.
“I don’t want to sound like sour grapes though, all I’ll say is I thought the judges were a bit unfair on her.”
There was certainly only one boxer trying to make the fight as Marshall pushed forward for the entire four rounds.
The opener looked as though it could have gone either way, both boxers scoring successfully in an exciting session, Nouchka happy to box on the backfoot.
Fontijn started and finished round two well and in between countered successfully as Savannah ploughed forward.
Two rounds down, Marshall needed a good third and she provided it, landing some decent shots with both fists, one long right knocking Fontijn’s head back.
It looked like the Poolie’s round but only the Chinese judge marked it for her with the other two judges, amazingly, going for the blue corner. Marshall, to her credit, did not give up and continued to apply pressure as Fontijn went into permanaent retreat,
Having awarded Nouchka round three, it was no shock the fourth too went her way.
But Rio awaits Marshall and she can go there and make her mark.