'Shields fight will happen!': Savannah Marshall interview

Sonia Randev
05/04/2020 8:00am

Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Despite the postponement of her WBO light heavyweight title fight against Geovana Peres, former world amateur champion Savannah Marshall is staying positive, as the 'Silent Assassin' talks to Sonia Randev after her past, present and future...

During a stellar amateur career, Savannah Marshall became the first British female boxer to win gold at the World Amateur Championships in 2012 after picking up silver in 2010. Add a Commonwealth gold and a World Championship bronze medal to the collection and you would think she would be shouting from the roof tops.

Not Savannah Marshall though. Dubbed the ‘Silent Assassin’ due to her innate shyness, the 28-year-old is more about the boxing and less about the talking. The only woman to have beaten the middleweight world champion Claressa Shields as an amateur or pro, the now light-heavyweight is looking to the future, despite having a world title fight cancelled due to the current Covid-19 situation.

BM: You were originally signed to Mayweather Promotions. How did that come about and why the change in promotional contract?
SM: I had been boxing since I was about twelve, initially just to keep fit. But then I became serious about it. I loved it and wanted to see how far I could go. After a successful amateur career, picking up gold in 2012 and then gold at the Commonwealth games, representing Team GB at the 2012 Olympics and the Rio Olympics, things changed. I felt different after Rio, where I lost out in the quarter-finals.

To miss out on gold again was too much for me. I had had enough and fell out of love with the sport. You dedicate so much of your time to the sport and I get that disappointments are guaranteed along the way but I just felt like my mind wasn’t there anymore. I spoke to Team GB after the Rio Olympics and said I wanted to leave. I didn’t really have a plan in place, I just wanted out. Then I got a call. It was from a mutual contact of mine and Floyd Mayweather. I was asked if I would be interested in signing with Mayweather. At first I was like: what is going on here? I’ve decided to walk away from the sport and this happens.

It was like a sign telling me not to give up. Not to walk away. So I basically accepted the offer and was getting ready to move up to Vegas, where I would train at the famous Mayweather gym and live out there. To me that was the ultimate dream package. I had literally just left Team GB and was ready to walk away. I sold my car, tied up a few loose ends in the UK and embarked on my new journey. My pro debut took place on the Mayweather vs McGregor undercard. It was such a surreal moment for me and the experience was unrivalled at that time. For a debut fight, it was pretty amazing!

To cut a long story short. My debut [for Mayweather Promotions] was everything I imagined. I really felt this was it for me. But it didn’t end up being that way. Fights got cancelled. There were so many quiet periods and I felt like I was getting left behind. All the women I had started with were entering into their fifth or sixth fights. I was  in Vegas, not getting any. So I parted ways with Mayweather, all on good terms.

So I then headed back to the UK and started training [again] with Peter Fury. I have been with him ever since. Prior to my debut my mutual contact introduced me to Peter  as I was still training with my amateur coach and I knew I needed to take it to the next level. Peter and I instantly clicked. He kept me grounded and gave me good advice. With Peter it is very much what you see is what you get. And still to this day he is still that man.

I fought on a few Hennessy shows on Channel 5 and then Peter got me a promotional deal with Matchroom. Fighting in Newcastle was such an experience as I am from the north-east. The crowd was fantastic and I couldn’t believe it when people were shouting my name.

Moving back to the UK was the best thing I did. I mean fighting on the Loma card and then in Newcastle live on TV. Crazy!

BM: You have had eight fights and won eight with six KOs. Do you feel that your career as a professional has been too slow paced?
SM: Of course I do. This has been no fault of mine - I have trained full time for three years since I turned pro and stayed dedicated to boxing. When fights kept getting cancelled, it was a real dark time in my life but when I look back now and again I'm glad I never walked away.

BM: You booked a date for your first world title fight this month at light heavyweight. How have you adjusted to the change in weight?
SM: I’m tall so I can adjust to the weight quite easily. At first I was like: do I really want to go from super-middleweight to light-heavyweight? But the opportunity to win a world title came knocking and I will do what I can to make my dream of becoming a world champion come true. Boxing and sport as a whole is about making sacrifices.

BM: All sports events arecurrently cancelled - it must have been a big blow to learn that your fight was no longer taking place on the scheduled date? How have you dealt with the current situation?
SM: I’m still training and keeping up with my running. I am also enjoying going to the fridge more! Hawaii constantly finds me looking for recipes on jerk chicken and I'm dying for a Five Guys! Of course I'm gutted. Usually I would have been like, well that’s just typical. Another fight gets cancelled! But this time we are all in the same boat. All events have been cancelled and there are things such as health that much bigger than boxing and any other sport.

Ironically I was quite ill over Christmas. I was in so much pain and was bed bound. It was a hard time as I started to think: am I going to get better? Will I box again? You have all this time on your hands so you start thinking the worse. I feel that particular episode has helped me deal with what we as a nation are going through better. It’s out of our control and all we can do is make sure we stay safe and positive.

It’s weird as this week would have been fight week, I would be in my hotel, doing press, weigh-in. But I’m at home. I would have been fighting for my first world title. It is now looking likely to take place in June [tentatively the bout has been rescheduled for 27 June] September - who knows. When the time comes I will be ready.

BM: A potential fight that fans talk about is you vs Claressa shields. Will you be moving back down to middleweight to face your old nemesis?
SM: Damn right I will be! Claressa came down to the UK and we saw each other at a fight. We did a joint interview and she was cool - I was expecting fireworks but it was quite the opposite. I’m not the type to start on someone but if you start on me. I will give it back. This fight will happen!

BM: What do we expect to see from you this year? Your world title fight will be rescheduled... Are we going to be seeing you win numerous titles at different weights?
SM: I want to get my hands on my first world title so mentally I am preparing for that despite the current situation. Winning at other weights is definitely on my agenda. That is the plan. I want to show people I can win at different weights, and be an active world champ and be remembered for being a great boxer. I don’t want to be a heavyweight but I want to show people that I can win at different weights. I would love to win in the super middleweight division as that is my natural weight.