Savannah Marshall must LeBlanc out any Las Vegas distractions to succeed – Tim Coulter

Savannah Marshall with and coach Tim Coulter.
Savannah Marshall with and coach Tim Coulter.

Tim Coulter will be looking to Savannah Marshall to block out all distractions tonight - not to mention any shots from her opponent.

The Hartlepool boxer makes her professional debut in Las Vegas where some of the world’s A-listers are expected at ringside for Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor.

Marshall, who signed this summer with Mayweather Promotions, is matched with the formidable USA middleweight Sydnay LeBlanc over four rounds at the T-Mobile Arena.

Some of boxing’s greats from all over the world are due to the big PPV event in person, not to mention countless American showbiz giants, including Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Coulter though looks like insisting his boxer puts the proverbial blinkers on, until she gets in the ring anyway.

LeBlanc is going to be no pushover, far from it in fact.

Most new professionals, no matter how much they have achieved in the amateur sport - in Marshall’s case her trophy cabinet is considerable - are handed a gentle introduction into what is a very different game.

However, as debuts go, this is about as hard as they come.

LeBlanc has a winning record, four victories to three defeats, but tellingly, it’s one of her losses which tells us much more about her.

The 33-year-old took Claressa Shields the full eight rounds in a WBC silver title fight back in May.

Shields has made a habit of brushing aside her opposition, often in brutal fashion, though not the lady from Gretna, Louisiana.

While the double Olympic gold medallist and recently-crowned world middleweight champion won by a USA mile on points, LeBlanc would not be budged.

“She is teak-tough,” declared Coulter, who will be in Marshall’s corner this evening.

“Shields could not put a dent in her, she is as hard as nails, she took everything thrown at her and kept coming forward.

“She’s mixed in very high calibre so this is a very tough start.

“Ability-wise, it’s Savannah all day long when you compare the two.

“But when you throw in all the other factors, the contest gets closer, the TV lights, the extra spotlight, first fight over four threes, first fight without a headguard.

“The key will be forgetting those factors and treating it is a normal boxing bout.

“Savannah, for me, has all the ability in the world and has learned so much in her camp working with Peter Fury.

“Tonight will be about sticking to the game-plan and putting into practice what she has trained for.”

Coulter has guided Marshall from the very start of her career, from that tentative opening evening at the Headland gym where the timid youngster from Dyke House first entered the club’s Northgate HQ.

Savannah had tried other sports, without much success, but was fascinated by trying boxing after seeing a friend would bring his medals and trophies into school.

Coulter is an honest man and admits he was not keen on having a girl in the gym and Marshall laughs when she recalls “not missing a training session for ages so Tim couldn’t sack me”.

The coach, soon won over by the dedication, talent and raw power shown by the teenager, has been instrumental in the career of one of Britain’s greatest amateur boxers, both male and female.

Marshall has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Championships, is the reigning Commonwealth Games title holder, and has won the EU, World Combat Games, GB Championships and much, much more.

And he has seen at close quarters the transformation of the boxer, known as the Silent Assassin, over recent months since her decision to go pro.

Team GB had identified her as one of the leading candidates to strike gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, when she’d still only be 29, only for the Hartlepool College of Further Education student to leave the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

“I don’t think Savannah could face another Olympic cycle,” he said.

“It sounds daft saying ‘what, you don’t want to go to the Olympics?’ but she’d done the 2012 and 2016 cycles.

“A lot of boxers went pro after London, like Anthony Joshua, then more after Rio, like Nicola Adams.

“Savannah was feeling stale and then this opportunity came along.

“What an opportunity, not just in boxing but in life.

“I’ve seen the change in her, she’s trained hard in our gym and with Peter Fury in Bolton.

“Savannah really has her tail up, she’s always been a quick learner and she’s picked up a lot working with Peter and the Furys.

“She’s been in our gym on weekends and I’ve seen how positive she is, how she has a real spring in her step.

“This is a new, exciting part of her life and it will be great seeing her get going in Vegas.”