Exclusive: Two-time Olympian Savannah Marshall discusses Hartlepool boxing roots, Floyd Mayweather, Peter Fury and title ambitions
On a Bolton high-street, behind a bus stop next door to a string of takeaways, industrial blocks and corner shops, a stable of boxing champions is being forged.
The jewel in the crown is a Hartlepool woman, born and raised on Milbank Road, charting her path to stardom in female boxing ranks.
I’ve barely set foot in the door at Team Fury gym when owner Peter Fury, father of Hughie Fury and uncle to Tyson Fury, stops me in my tracks.
“You are about to speak to the next big world champion in women’s boxing. The future. Better make it a good interview.”
High praise indeed for Hartlepool’s own Savannah Marshall.
Fury knows a world champion when he sees one having helped mastermind nephew Tyson’s rise to the very top of the heavyweight game, toppling of Wladimir Klitschko, away from home in Germany, against all odds, long before his collapse and recent rebirth.
It’s an unassuming, humble home, as far from the commercialised, pay-per-view shop face of modern day pugilism as can possibly be. But’s it’s just what ******Marshall is used to - an environment the 27-year-old thrives in.
In this exclusive interview, the two-time Olympian discusses her boxing roots, how they’ve shaped her present and what lies in wait in the future.
She talks signing with Mayweather promotions, her amateur regrets, the bond forged with trainer Fury, old foe Claressa Shields and her upcoming IBF intercontinental bout in Bulgaria on October 27.
Q: Where did it all start for Savannah Marshall?
“There is absolutely no history of boxing whatsoever in the family. I just started through friends.
“I am from Milbank Road in Hartlepool - it’s a bit of a rough estate and a couple of friends of mine in the street boxed and I went along at the age of 11. I went along to win medals and trophies, really.
“I am professional now and I am still at the same club. I had 118 amateur fights, I have won world silver, gold and bronze, European gold, Commonwealth gold the only thing I ever won was an Olympic medal. The stupid thing is, that is the only one that means something.Looking back, if I’d have won an Olympic medal I don’t think I would be boxing now.
“I remember in the run up to Rio I thought, I have had enough of this. There are a lot of dodgy decisions and it gets you down. I never even thought about professional boxing.”
Q: You won everything there was to win in the amateur game, bar an Olympic medal. But it sounds like you have regrets about your glittering career before turning pro?
“I missed my chance with the Olympics. When you don’t win that you are easily forgotten.
“When I see the likes of Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams I think ‘why can’t I have a bit of that?’ - I train hard enough for it and I am good enough.”
Q: You turned professional and got signed up by Floyd Mayweather’s Mayweather productions. What was it like being part of The Money Team?
“Ever since I have left school I have boxed. I was lottery funded so I never really had a real job. I didn’t know anything else.
“I was so unhappy on the GB setup, I had been there eight years and it was so tedious.
“I got approached by a friend and asked me if I was interested in turning pro and Mayweather Promotions were interested in signing me. I thought ‘I’ve made it here’. And I was in a position where I had put so much time and effort into boxing that I couldn’t walk away.
“Not winning that Olympic medal meant I would have walked away with nothing, having wasted my time. Now in the pro game I feel like I have something to prove. It didn’t work out.
“I think social media helps people a lot - TMT online looks great, it really wasn’t like that at all.
“Don’t get me wrong I was in America for six months and I loved it, I’d go back tomorrow. I was living in Vegas with a new coach, but just the whole Mayweather thing was not what it looks cracked up to be.
“When you scratch the surface of it, only Floyd Mayweather has ever done anything.”
Q: You broke from TMT and now work under Hennessy Sports and Peter Fury. How did that come about? And how is that working out for you?
“During in the run to my pro debut I didn’t leave until a week before. The guy who got me the original deal put me in contact with Peter Fury. He trained me for my debut but wasn’t my coach. I liked what he taught me and we had a bond.
“When I came home I didn’t want to wrap it in so I asked Peter to coach me. Thank god he took me back.
“I love the way Peter trains me. It is brutal, it is so hard work.
“In the nicest possible way I think he forgets I am a woman he trains me so hard. But I have never ever been this fit before.
“He is a bit crazy but there is a definite method to his madness.
“If it didn’t work out with Peter I don’t think I could have another coach. I am happy with him, what I have learned in such a short space of time is incredible.
“People in the boxing game are so money orientated. They would throw you under the bus for a fiver, but I trust Peter - he has my best interests at heart.”
Q: Three fights, three victories and a title fight next up in Bulgaria, it’s fair to say you’re not hanging about. How far do you think you can go in the pro game?
“I could have a further three fights before the end of the year.
“I am boxing for an IBF intercontinental. I have won medals since I was a kid - they’re all in the loft now.
“If I get a belt it will go right on the mantelpiece.
“I am 27 now. I do not want that long out of this game. I have boxed since I was 11.
“It is hard work getting punched in the face, winded every week.
“I spar men so it is hard. A slog.
“I would like a good two years, win as many belts as I can then that’s it and say goodbye for good.”
Q: So we might only see another two years of you as a boxer? Is that fire still burning bright inside?
“I want to be a millionaire - I know it may never happen in the women’s game but it is my dream.
“I need to build my profile. If I box for a world title next week, who would know me? I don’t have that Olympic pedigree that others have. I need 10 or 12 fights to build a profile.
“Eddie Hearn has done so much for boxing, but I am not with him, especially the women’s game.
“I am happy with the team I have got but I am content with the team that I have.”
Q: You are still the only woman to ever beat one of the biggest names in the sport Claressa Shields in the amateur or the pros, it seems to be something that sticks in her throat. Is that a fight you yearn for and how are you finding her jibes on social media?
“I would love to box her again.
“It bothers her that I beat her.
“We boxed about six years ago - she should let it go, as it was in the amateurs. But it’s like a nail in her coffin.
“It will happen. I am quite confident and that’s the strategy I need to build towards.”