SAVANNAH Marshall is back on the gold standard with a word of warning to her rivals: I can get even better.
The Hartlepool boxer added the European Union Championship to her title collection when she beat arch-rival Nouchka Fontijn in Saturday’s final in Hungary.
It marked a dream return to the ring for the 22-year-old who was fighting in her first tournament since suffering the anguish of a shock and controversial Olympic quarter-final exit.
There was no shortage of physical pain either as she had surgery on an injured left hand last year.
But 11 months of hurt were banished in style in Keszthely as she outboxed and outfought the 25-year-old from the Netherlands.
“At the start of the tournament, I felt glad just to be back boxing again,” said the Headland middleweight.
“I wanted a medal and while I always aim to win, I didn’t think it would be gold.
“I thought this tournament would just be about seeing where I was – I had it in my head that it would be a case of going there to see how far behind I was.
“So to go to the EUs and win them is a brilliant feeling, it shows I’m still up there at the top and I know I can get better.
“I’m not as fast and as sharp as when I won the worlds so to to get a gold medal when I’m not at my best is great.”
While she may not have hit the peaks she reached in China in May 2012, her triumph this weekend proved that she is still a special talent and that she is fighting fit.
Marshall had to beat three in-form rivals to clinch the title.
She overcame a physical battle against Poland’s Lidia Fidura in the last eight before outpointing new Swedish number one Love Holgersson in the semi-finals.
Fontijn looked a big danger in the final, especially given the length of time Marshall had spent out of action, and the fact the Dutch fighter had won their previous meeting – the 2011 European Championship semi-final.
But there was never going to be a repeat of that defeat.
Marshall, being watched by GB performance director, Rob McCracken, started impressively, landing the better punches in the first round.
Fontijn, to her credit, fought back in round two but the Camerons Brewery-sponsored Poolie regained the initiative in round three and then turned on the style with a scintillating final session to get the unanimous points verdict.