Graeme Lee is hoping for a double celebration with Hartlepool United and Savannah Marshall successes

Graeme Lee is hoping the town of Hartlepool can celebrate a double success this weekend with a Hartlepool United win over Salford City followed by victory for Savannah Marshall in her return to the ring against Femke Hermans.

By Joe Ramage
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 9:40 am

Pools host Salford at the Suit Direct Stadium at 3pm before Hartlepool’s fighting champion Marshall defends her WBO middleweight title against the 32-year-old Belgian in the main event of boxing promoter Boxxer’s show in Newcastle later tonight.

The undefeated Marshall is making her first appearance since the emphatic defence of her title over Lolita Muzeya back in October as she aims to finalise a blockbuster bout with longtime rival Claressa Shields in the summer.

American Shields is expected to be on Tyneside this evening with a summer showdown set to be confirmed should Marshall get the job done against Hermans.

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Savannah Marshall celebrates victory after the WBO World Middleweight title fight with Lolita Muzeya at Utilita Arena on October 16, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Speaking at her open workout at Newcastle’s Metro Centre in midweek however, Marshall explained she would not be overlooking the Belgian despite all of the noise surrounding a potential super-fight with Shields for all the middleweight belts.

Marshall, 30, has seen her career sky-rocket over the last 18 months since winning the middleweight title against Hannah Rankin in October 2020 including her headline showing over Muzeya in Newcastle last time out.

And Marshall has admitted she still has to take a step back when dealing with the publicity she now receives from time to time, but credits just how far she has come in such a short space of time.

“My friend is here with me and I’ve seen the big poster and I was like ‘oh god, look at that’ whereas before it probably would have been a tiny photo compared to that one,” said Marshall.

Graeme Lee is looking forward to watching Savannah Marshall defend her WBO middleweight title after his side take on Salford City at the Suit Direct Stadium. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

“To see my face on the poster is brilliant. A year ago I wasn’t even getting on the poster so I’ve come on leaps and bounds.”

But to whom does Marshall owe that credit? While her natural talent has seen her soar into the top 10 pound-for-pound women’s boxers, showcasing her crushing power when stopping nine of her 11 opponents since turning pro in 2017 - a record which sees her at the top of the list for knockout percentage for active female world champions, it is her trainer Peter Fury who has seemingly unlocked that potential.

Marshall met Fury when she first turned pro in America and has been indebted to him since with the pair striking up a unique relationship.

Fury, uncle and former trainer of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, has helped Marshall evolve both inside and outside of the ring but the 30-year-old believes there is still more to give, at least when putting on the gloves.

Savannah Marshall and Hartlepool United can make it a double for the town of Hartlepool on Saturday. Picture by FRANK REID

“Peter has made me the fighter I am today,” explained Marshall.

“He’s a great man and he’s the only person I trust in this sport and he hasn’t put me wrong so far, so we’re on the right track.

She added: “I remember having a conversation with Peter, and it was after I’d won the world title and everyone was saying how good my performance was.

“I remember saying to Peter ‘I know I can do better than that’ and Peter felt the same but he said ‘if I can get at least 80 per cent out of you what I can see in sparring then I’m happy’ and I’ve never thought about it like that.

“So I think that’s the hardest part, transitioning from the gym into the arena under the lights. So if you’re only seeing 80 per cent I know I can be a lot better than I am.”

But whatever percentage she is at, Marshall is now at a stage where she is able to deliver significant numbers in terms of support, with another bumper attendance anticipated at the Utilita Arena this evening.

“I was thinking about it this time,” Marshall explained.

“Hughie [Fury] is not on the bill, Chris Eubank is not on the bill, is it still going to sell?

“But I think it’s sold quite well so I’m happy about that.

“It’s amazing. The reception I got last October was unbelievable. So if Saturday is going to be anything like that, it’s going to be off the scale.”

And many of those supporters may be on double duty after making the trip to Tyneside having spent the afternoon at the Suit Direct Stadium.

Marshall was paraded around the pitch ahead of Pools’ clash with Forest Green Rovers in November and has forged quite the backing from her native Poolies who are sure to support Marshall later this evening.

And with Lee’s side taking on the Ammies this afternoon, there could be cause for double celebration in Hartlepool tonight with the Pools boss admitting it’s an opportunity for both his side and Marshall to make the town proud.

“Yeah that would be nice,” said Lee.

“I’m looking forward to watching Savannah. Let’s get our points in the bag first and then go and enjoy Savannah.

“I have no doubts she’ll come through it, she’s an unbelievable talent and an unbelievable girl.

“I’ve known her from playing with Paul Arnison and her coming on the scene with Amanda, so it’s good to watch someone who you know.

“But for a Hartlepool lass, she’s a Hartlepool fan, it makes the town proud to see that and hopefully she gets this win so we can have the big one later in the year.”

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