08 November 2019

British boxer Chantelle Cameron on how she nearly quit the sport, her fight with Katie Taylor and the struggles of being a woman fighter

Britain's Chantelle Cameron today reveals she was on the verge of quitting boxing and getting a nine-to-five job earlier this year before her career suddenly began to take off.

The 28-year-old, who turned professional in May 2017, is fighting at York Hall in London on Saturday as she bids to become the mandatory contender for the WBC World Super Lightweight title.

But speaking exclusively to NewsChain, Northampton-born Cameron recalls how close she was to throwing in the towel just nine months ago.

“I felt like I was going stale and downhill. I felt like I wasn’t going to achieve anything in the sport," she says.

“I was going to quit. I was miserable and my family could see I was miserable. They wanted me to quit, they thought it wasn’t worth it.

“When I didn’t make it to the Olympic qualifiers with Team GB, that was heartbreaking enough. I turned pro and my family said I was going downhill again. Everyone in my family said to stop. Then I came across Jamie."

She is referring to her new trainer Jamie Moore, who she began working with following a bust-up with former coach Shane McGuigan. That split resulted in a legal dispute with Shane's father Barry's Cyclone Promotions, which is ongoing.

The break from both McGuigan and Cyclone left Cameron with little option but to pack the sport in because she had no-one to guide her.

But linking up with Moore and fellow coach Nigel Travis coincided with her teaming up with sports management company MTK Global, and since then her career has been rejuvenated.

Tomorrow's bout marks her fourth fight in just seven months as she moves up to super lightweight to face three-weight world champion Anahi Ester Sanchez.

Cameron has gained momentum since the spring and now boasts an impressive record having won all of her 11 professional fights.

But it could so easily have all come to an abrupt end earlier this year had she not been saved by Moore.

“100 per cent I wouldn’t be boxing. I would have just walked away in March," she says.

Chantelle Cameron, centre, with her former trainer Shane McGuigan and his father Barry (Chantelle Cameron's Facebook)

A bronze and silver medallist at the European Championships as an amateur, Cameron confesses she would have done things differently had she known just how tough the pro game was.

“I probably would have stayed on Team GB," she admits.

"In the pros it’s a lot harder because you rely on sponsors and if sponsors drop out then you’ve still got bills to pay, your mortgage to pay. I take myself away from home to Manchester too so I have to pay bills in Manchester, petrol, everything.

“Whereas with GB you’re getting monthly pay no matter what. Petrol, food, physio, massages, kit, all paid for. In the pros you’re looking after yourself.

“You’re waiting for fights to be made and then the money from the fights is just going to cover your camp, you’re not actually earning money. So you think ‘is there any point boxing if I’m not earning money?’ I have to think about my future. As much as I love boxing, there’s life after, which I always think about."

Cameron currently shares a flat in Manchester with fellow ex-GB teammate Savannah Marshall after the pair met and lived together during their amateur days.

"We’ve just become best friends from there," she says.

“We’ve been through the ups and downs of GB together. We’ve been at rock bottom, cried together, laughed together, everything. And now we’re in the pro game."

Last month we spoke to Britain's first licensed female boxer Jane Couch, who criticised the lack of support for the likes of Cameron and Marshall despite the supposed recent rise of women's boxing highlighted by Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams.

“I do feel like if you’re Katie or Nicola that you are going to get paid better because at the end of the day they’ve won the Olympic medals, they’ve got the credentials," says Cameron.

“But it is hard because things like sponsors - who wants to sponsor a women’s boxer really? Not many people do. And if we do a nine-to-five then we can’t concentrate on our boxing, but sometimes you have to find another income.

“A male world champion gets a lot more than a female world champion gets, unless you are Katie Taylor. It does need to improve."

The Midlands fighter, whose in-ring alias is 'Wham Bam Chan', was an accomplished amateur despite never making it to the Olympic Games.

She took up kickboxing at the age of ten after being inspired by Jean Claude van Damme and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

At 16 she began competing in Muay Thai, but by 18 felt boxing was the necessary move to make because of both its inclusion in the 2012 Olympics and the fact that it was a cheaper sport to fund.

“It was costing my dad too much money," she says. "It was costing me to be a champion. It was a lot of money every weekend for my dad with training fees etc. Boxing is a lot cheaper."

There is a fearlessness to Cameron's fighting today that makes you think that hardened, gritty mentality has been instilled in her from an early age.

But recalling her first experiences in a boxing ring, those feeling of nerves and discomfort were definitely there.

“When I first got in a boxing ring I remember the girl was quite intimidating and I was thinking ‘she’s going to batter me’," she says. "But I stopped her which was a big shock. The coach was saying it was like ‘beauty vs the beast’.

“That was a massive confidence boost. From there I thought I could make a career out of this."

One of the major sliding doors moments then came when she planned to carry on boxing by joining the army.

But just days before she was scheduled to go for her military interview, she received a call from GB Boxing's performance director Robert McCracken, who called her up to the team and began moving her at a ferocious pace.

After just six amateur bouts in the UK, she was thrown into deep waters on the international scene despite by her own admission 'not having any idea' how the scoring system worked.

And shortly after finding her feet on foreign soil she found herself at the European Championships and up against a familiar face in Irish superstar Katie Taylor.

Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall are now both making a name for themselves in the professional ranks (Chantelle Cameron's Instagram)

“I can remember I was in the cinema a few days before the tournament and she came on the screen in a lucozade advert," she says. "I remember thinking ‘that’s weird, she’s going to be in the same tournament as me next week’.

"I was starstruck until the bell went and then a fight is a fight. I have massive respect for her because when I got on the amateur scene it was all about Katie Taylor. I was so new to it as well, and when I got on GB everyone knew who Katie was.

“I was like ‘why is everyone hyped about this girl?’ and then I watched her and thought ‘wow, she’s amazing, her hands are so fast, she’s so good’.

“So when I faced her, because it was so early in my career, I thought ‘this is crazy’. The first two rounds I was giving her hell because my style means I’m hard work for anybody. She knew that she was in the deep end with me."

Taylor won the fight as she moved clear towards the end of the fight, but Cameron realised then that she could compete at world level.

However, her career took another jolt during the qualification for the 2016 Rio Games when she experienced one of the lowest points of her career. 

She was beaten by Azerbaijani Yana Alekseevna in the round of 32, ending her Olympic dream, and it was then that the Brit thought it could all be over.

However, she dusted herself down, turned pro, and now that failure in the amateurs is what drives her refusal to accept defeat.

“I had the heartache of not going to the Olympics," she says. "Now I’ve got the opportunity to make my mum and dad proud, to say to them ‘look, I did it, I did actually succeed in boxing’. I failed in the amateurs so this is my chance to succeed.

“I always visualize myself as a world champion with all the belts. It’s not about the money, it’s about making my family proud. And it’s about leaving the game happy, not leaving it having failed."

It is not in Cameron's nature to be loud, brash, calling people out at every turn - a strategy which many boxers adopt in order to further their careers.

She makes no secret about the fact that she 'wants the Taylor fight' and that her move up to 140 pounds from 135 is to some degree to chase that huge clash. 

But she is also sticking to her principles and is in no way willing to change who she is in order to attract attention.

“Savannah keeps telling me to call people out and I’m sick of it. I’m just like ‘Savannah, shut up!'," she says through a wry smile and a chuckle.

“If I had that in my personality then I would get the big fights sooner, but I just let my boxing do the talking. 

"I don’t need to be a mouthpiece. My boxing is capable enough of getting me what I want. I obviously want the fights, but I don’t want to be shouting people out."

She aims to make a statement with her performance against Sanchez in London this weekend, one that will have those within boxing clambering to see her get a shot at Taylor.

“It’s going to be the hardest fight of my career so far," she says. 

"But it’s what I need. I’m going through the levels now, Sanchez is a step up. It’s time to show what I’m about."

It is safe to say she has ridden a tide of uncertainty throughout her rocky, eventful voyage into boxing. Now, slowly but surely, she is beginning to make waves.

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