Marshall: “I remember getting my Floyd Mayweather contract thinking ‘wow, I’m going to be living in Vegas, they’ll probably give me a Lamborghini!’; the biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing – Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall – is live on Sky Sports on Saturday September 10
Savannah Marshall says she came close to quitting boxing and had started to hate the sport before finding out Mayweather Promotions wanted to sign her.
The WBO middleweight champion, who will fight Claressa Shields for undisputed glory on Saturday, recalls returning from the Rio Olympics in 2016 ready to hang up her gloves after losing in the quarter-finals.
It had served as the latest installment to four tough years since the London 2012 Games that had also included regular injury setbacks and self-admitted inconsistency on the amateur scene.
Marshall failed to see her potential. Mayweather and his team did not.
“I got to the quarters [in Rio], got beat, but the difference was this time I actually tried and remember coming away thinking ‘maybe I’m just not good enough, maybe that’s what it is’,” Marshall admitted. “I stayed for the rest of the tournament, came home and thought ‘do I really want to box anymore?’.
“I was ready to walk away from the sport, at this point it brought me nothing but misery, I was ready to turn my back.
“What changed was I got a message out the blue off a guy called Sam Jones, he’s quite big in boxing at the minute, back then he was just starting out.
“He said, ‘have you thought about turning pro’, and I thought ‘na never, I’m not interested’.
“He went, ‘ah well, Mayweather Promotions want to sign you and your debut would be on Mayweather-McGregor’. I remember thinking ‘what? Oh my god, this is it, somebody upstairs doesn’t want me to quit! Where’s that contract?’.
“Just like that here I am.”
Marshall admits she had slipped into a defensive mindset of underperforming in the years which separated London and Rio, losing her love of boxing in the process.
It took a wake-up call from a coach and a rain-check on a night out in Spain for things to sink in.
“There was a tournament before 2016 in Spain, back against the wall, got beat by a girl not in my class, straight back to the hotel, ‘ah not bothered, come on girls let’s go have a good time, we’re in Spain!’,” Marshall said.
“I remember there was a coach there called Amanda Groarke. I remember her coming into the changing rooms going ‘what you doing?’, and I said ‘I’m going out’, she said ‘no you’re not, we’re going for a walk now along the beach’.
“I remember we’re on the beach and she was like, ‘what are you doing? Do you want to go to Rio? The way you’re going you aren’t going to get there, you’ve wasted four years of your life for what?’.
“I remember thinking ‘she’s right’, so it all clicked then. The next tournament was the qualifier, I boxed out my skin, qualified, got a bronze in the Worlds, and qualified for the Olympics.”
Marshall’s professional debut came on the undercard of Mayweather’s crossover bout against UFC star Conor McGregor in August 2017.
Despite the opulence of Las Vegas headquarters, Marshall recalls a stark exposure to boxing’s infamous politics.
“I think that was the start, that was the evolution of Savannah Marshall, I remember there were 18,000 people at the weigh-in and I’m stood there in my bra and knickers,” she said.
“I stayed there for about six months, trained for about two or three fights over there and every one of them fell through and it just got to the point where there were a lot of broken promises and I was out there on my own and I just thought ‘this just isn’t for me’.
“I tried so hard, in my head I was thinking ‘just stick with it!’.
“I learned how hard and much of a business, a dirty business, the pro boxing world is, I learned that at the start.
“I remember getting my Mayweather contract thinking, ‘wow, I’m going to be living in Vegas, they’ll probably give me a Lamborghini, they’ll probably take me shopping, this is it, I’m set for life’, and it just wasn’t like that.”
The biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing – Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall – is live on Sky Sports on Saturday September 10.