Marshall (right) has won all 11 professional bouts and became world champion in just her ninth outing by beating Hannah Rankin in 2020.
|Savannah Marshall v Femke Hermans, WBO middleweight title|
|Venue: Utilita Arena, Newcastle Date: Saturday, 2 April|
|Coverage: Live coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live from 22:00 GMT and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app from 21:30 GMT|
With the opportunity to become an undisputed champion edging closer, Savannah Marshall is on the cusp of greatness. But behind every student of the game is a masterful tutor.
The ‘Silent Assassin’ defends her WBO middleweight belt against Belgian Femke Hermans at the Newcastle Arena on Saturday, with trainer Peter Fury in her corner.
“I can honestly say that, in this sport, Peter is the only man I trust,” the 30-year-old says.
A victory over mandatory challenger Hermans will set up the long-awaited clash against American rival Claressa Shields for all the middleweight belts – and an opportunity for Marshall to stake her claim as the number one pound-for-pound star of women’s boxing.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Marshall opens up on the self-doubt which crept in when she turned professional, the misconceptions she had of Fury – who comes from a travelling background – and how their relationship has blossomed over the past five years.
‘All I knew of Peter was that he was Tyson’s uncle’
Despite missing out on an Olympic medal in London 10 years ago, Marshall achieved great successes in the amateurs, striking gold at both the 2012 World Championships and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
After a period of deliberation, she decided to take the plunge into the professional ranks in 2017 and was quickly snapped up by American great Floyd Mayweather’s promotional company.
Marshall turned to boxing manager Sam Jones, who represented heavyweight Joe Joyce at the time, for some advice – and a text exchange led her to Fury.
“About eight weeks before I was meant to go America I was messaging Sam and saying I have no experience in professional boxing,” Marshall explains. “I knew nothing about it, even though I was an international amateur.
“Sam told me he was at the Fury gym because Joyce was sparring heavyweight Hughie Fury. He said, ‘I’m with Hughie’s dad, Peter, who says you are more than welcome to come down and he’ll show you little bits and bobs’.”
Fury had been instrumental in nephew Tyson Fury’s stunning rise to world-title glory. He was in his corner when the British heavyweight upset Wladimir Klitschko to become unified champion in 2015.
“All I knew of Peter was he was Tyson’s uncle,” Marshall adds. “I didn’t know anything else about him or his style.”
‘I was thinking I’d get my head punched in’
Marshall accepted the offer of help. On their first meeting, she was struck by “how friendly” Peter was.
“I knew of Tyson being very loud and brash and Peter is just not like that at all. He’s a very, very smart man, he’s a thinker and very polite,” she says.
While there was a connection on a personal level, there was no instant spark inside the ring. In fact, Fury’s methods initially had Marshall doubting her suitability to professional boxing.
She recalls: “He had me on the pads with my hands down by my waist, having me slipping and sliding. I remember thinking this isn’t me, I’m going to get my head punched in.
“He had me in the mirror for hours working on footwork. I remember looking at myself thinking, ‘God, Savannah, you’re rubbish, you are going to get knocked out’.
“But I had to remind myself how he is the only person that has offered to help me so just do it. He’s the only one willing to give his time up for me.”
From self-doubt to world champion
Shields (left) had has a long-standing feud with Marshall (right) after losing to the Briton in the amateurs. The two fighters had to be separated by security in Cardiff earlier this year
Marshall persevered with both the sport and Fury – and it soon started to pay off.
“I’m just glad I listened to what he said and trusted his every word,” she says.
“I improved day-by-day. The technique of his training improved me as a professional boxer and the way he taught me to deliver the punch definitely improved my punch power.”
The Hartlepool-born fighter moved to Cheshire to be closer to the impressive purpose-built boxing gym which is located adjacent to Hughie Fury’s house.
As time progressed, so did the understanding between the pair.
“There will be times now when I come in the gym and won’t even speak. Peter will put my gloves on and will ask what’s on my mind. He just knows me inside out,” she adds.
‘I feel blessed our paths have crossed’
Outside the ring, Peter shared his wealth of experience and knowledge to educate Marshall on the politics of the sport.
“In my first camp I was telling him I’m going to Mayweather Promotions and going to live in America,” she recalls. “Every now and again he would say, ‘you just look after yourself out there because this pro game is not what it seems’.
“For weeks he kept mentioning it and drilling it into me. At the time I was thinking, ‘ah well, just wait until I get to America, you’ll see’ – but I learnt that professional boxing is a dirty business and sometimes it’s not just about the actual sport.”
Marshall has also formed a close friendship with Hughie and now “feels part of the Fury family”. She has also gained a better understanding of the oft-misjudged and mistreated traveller community.
“Because of their travelling background I was a little surprised when he first asked me to come down,” she says.
“You hear stories of those from traveller backgrounds, that the women don’t participate in sports. But he was such a lovely man from the off.
“It goes to show how you can easily judge. Since I first met Peter, he’s been nothing but nice and accepting. He’s never once shown any dislike to female boxing.
“Even Peter’s wife, daughter and other sons have made me feel welcome. I feel blessed that my paths have crossed with Peter and I have been able to experience a whole different culture.”