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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
David Anderson

How Savannah Marshall overcame sexist prejudice to conquer the world

Topping the bill in an historic first all-female show at a sold-out O2 could not be further removed from Savannah Marshall’s beginnings as a boxer.

She faced prejudice at every punch and was even kicked out of an amateur club in Sunderland when she turned up to spar as a 14-year-old.

Even her amateur club Hartlepool Headland shunned her at first and refused to let her spar.

But the determined Marshall ignored all these snubs and forced the male-dominated sport to accept her.

As she relaxed after a training session at her gym in Cheshire, Marshall was able to smile about those early days when obstacle after obstacle was put in her way.

Savannah Marshall's profile is rising and she has just signed her latest sponsorship deal with Speedy Freight (CHRIS NEILL)

“I think I was about 14, it was a Sunday and we’d gone to one of the boxing clubs in Sunderland to spar,” she told Mirror Sport. “It was quite a well-known club and Olympic medallist Tony Jeffries had come from there.

“I remember going in, and the coach was old school, I remember him pointing at me as soon as I walked in and said ‘what’s that?’ from right across the gym.

“I pretended I didn’t hear and then he said it again, ‘what’s that?’. My coach, who had taken me, said he was our female fighter and his response was ‘there are no female fighters allowed in here, she can’t spar’.

“The funny thing now is that club has got many female amateur champions.

“No-one in my gym wanted me there. The boys didn’t want me there, they didn’t bother with me.

“I’m not very sociable, so that didn’t bother me!

“They wouldn’t let me spar for months and when they finally did, I think there were shocked that when I did get punched in the face, I didn’t back off. It was like a kind of red mist descended and I went for it.”

Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields clash at the O2 in the biggest-ever women's fight in the UK (Mark Robinson/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Marshall, 31, struggled for opponents in her early years before making rapid progress, culminating in her becoming the first British woman to win a world amateur title at 21.

Now her career has come full circle and she is facing Claressa Shields on Saturday for the first time since beating her in 2012 on her way to that amateur gold in the biggest fight involving a female British fighter.

Finally the KO queen is getting the credit and rewards, which are long overdue, and her latest sponsorship deal is with Speedy Freight in her native North East.

“I can appreciate my journey, 100 per cent,” she said. “It’s taken a long time, a lot of tears, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of times I’ve wanted to walk away, but here I am.”

The brash Shields, the self-proclaimed GWOAT and three-division world champ, is everything Marshall isn’t.

Savannah Marshall holds the WBO belt and aims to unify it with the WBC, WBA and IBF crowns (CHRIS NEILL)

Marshall understands the unashamed way Shields publicises herself, even if it goes against the grain for her.

“She’s got to do that because what she’s achieved as a pro can go unnoticed because of who she’s boxed,” she said.

“But I also think she believes it all!

“We’ll see tonight.”

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