SAVANNAH Marshall suffered a hiccup in her Olympic countdown when she went out at her first hurdle at the European Union championships – to a boxer who is expected to be one of her main rivals at London 2012.
The Hartlepool boxer, representing England at the tournament in Poland, was beaten 14-9 by Maria Kovacs in the U75 kilos quarter-final last night.
It was always going to be a difficult opener for Marshall, who was hoping to go one better at this year’s EU event after being beaten in a disputed points decision in the 2010 final by another Hungarian, Bianki Nagy.
Kovacs is rated as one of the best middleweights on the planet after winning the world championships twice, as well as taking a bronze medal home from last year’s competition in Barbados, where Marshall won silver at U69 kilos.
It all began well for the Headland star when she went 2-1 up after the first round. Kovacs hit back to lead 7-5 after a close second session and used her experience to establish a winning lead.
Last night’s loss in Katowice was only the fourth in Marshall’s brilliant career and while it may today feel like the end of the world for a fierce competitor that the 20-year-old is, it most certainly isn’t.
The bout was her first major championship fight at U75 kilos after moving up from U69 kilos following her agonising 5-4 world final loss to Andrecia Wasson.
Next year’s Olympics are the major goal and GB bosses and her Headland coach, Tim Coulter, will put the contest in Poland down to “experience” and look to see Marshall come back firing – as she has done after her previous set-backs.
“Kovacs is very experienced and probably by far the best fighter she’s boxed so far in her career,” said Coulter. “She’s a double world champion and while Savannah was upset she lost, boxing someone of Maria’s calibre can only be good experience.”