Savannah Marshall says she kept WBO belt ‘under bed’ and had planned to retire by 30

Savannah Marshall holds her WBO title
Savannah Marshall became a world champion last year

When Savannah Marshall won her world title she decided the best place for her WBO belt was under her bed.

The 30-year-old became a world champion almost exactly a year ago, stopping British rival Hannah Rankin in seven rounds at the SSE Arena in London.

It was a crowning moment for Marshall having never quite reached the heights she wanted to in the amateur ranks.

It was just her ninth pro fight. But the middleweight, nicknamed the ‘Silent Assassin’ because of her shyness, was not keen on showing off her belt.

“I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t want it sat on my mantelpiece,” she told BBC Sport.

“Before I won the world title everyone was saying, ‘wait till you become world champion, your life will change’ and it just hasn’t. I don’t feel any different, I don’t train any different.

“Especially in the gym – still get treated the same. Still get pushed really hard.

“I suppose what has changed is people want to fight me more. That doesn’t really bother me. The belt was under my bed for a couple of months. I’ve put it in the gym now so it’s not even in my own house.”

Speaking from inside St James’ Park before her fight against Lolita Muzeya at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle on Saturday, Marshall laughed as she explained why her most prized asset was left to collect dust underneath her bed.

“It was in the way, clutter,” she said. “I’ve only got the one so a trophy cabinet would look out of place. Maybe when I have a couple more they can go in the cabinet.”

Marshall’s amateur career was a double-edged sword for the Hartlepool fighter. She remains the only woman to beat American superstar Claressa Shields and won gold medals at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, but suffered two shock defeats in her Olympic campaigns.

Rio 2016 and London 2012 were heartbreak affairs for Marshall. She was a favourite at both to claim a medal, but both times was knocked out at the quarter-final stage. Now she is a world champion, Marshall says she is keeping her feet on the ground.

“I’ve got a small group of friends I’ve had since school,” she said.

“They’re very real with me. They tell me how it is. If I ever turned up for a meal or got into a car with like, ‘yeah, I’m the champ’, I’d be put straight out the car.

Lolita Muzeya and Savannah Marshall face off
Savannah Marshall defends her WBO title against Lolita Muzeya

“My friends wouldn’t allow me to have an ego.”

Marshall is coached by Peter Fury – uncle of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury – and trains alongside his cousin, Hughie.

After the Rio Olympics Marshall signed with Floyd Mayweather, but is now with promoter Boxxer and believes she has found the perfect fit with the Furys.

“Peter is very straight to the point. Like we said about the ego thing, he’d be the first to shoot me down,” Marshall said.

“Hughie is grounded and hasn’t got a big ego either and it’s good to be around them types of people.

“I think sometimes they see me as a little man.

“Especially when we’re doing circuits and weights. Sometimes I look at the weights and think they’ve forgotten I’m a woman. I do it, I crack on, but they definitely see me as a little man.”

It is a far cry from Marshall’s first introductions to boxing. She started when she was 11 and became a full-time boxer at the age of 17. But Marshall was not always welcome in the world of boxing.

“Since I walked through the doors of that gym gender has never really come into it with Hughie and Peter,” she said.

“There were times I wasn’t allowed in boxing gyms because I was a woman. My clubs would go sparring and I wasn’t allowed to spar.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t even be allowed in the gym, I’d have to sit in the van.”

Marshall is grateful women’s boxing has come on “leaps and bounds” in recent years. Even so, a woman headlining a fight night is still unusual. A few years ago the addition of someone like Chris Eubank Jr on the card would have seen Marshall bumped off top billing.

On Saturday night however, Marshall’s world title defence is the main event.

Despite the progress, Marshall revealed she actually had planned to be retired by the age of 30. Marshall was confident she would have achieved everything she wanted to by now but then the Covid-19 pandemic set her back significantly.

The WBO champion is looking forward to life after boxing, even if she is still deciding what exactly she will do.

“I’d actually applied to do midwifery at Sunderland University before I got selected for Team GB. It’s the last thing I could think of doing right now,” she said.

“I change my mind all the time, even now. I want to be a teacher or I want to be a firewoman.

“The other day I was looking into joining the police and I saw you had to go to university and I thought I can’t be bothered with that at my age.”

She added: “I want to achieve my goals, get as much money as I can, get out of the sport and crack on with my life.”

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