Marianne Marston

MBC INTERNATIONAL SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION

Marianne with sponsor Melissa Lewars (L), Baz Rehman (R) and far right MBC International Supervisor Dave Smith

Marianne with sponsors Melissa Lewars (L) and Baz Rehman (R) and far right MBC International Supervisor Dave Smith

Marianne was discovered by late, great Heavyweight Champion of the World Smokin’ Joe Frazier in 2007, Joe was so impressed that not only did he sign her on the spot but asked her to relocate to America to train full time with him, his son Marvis Frazier and Val Colbert at his North Philadelphia landmark gym.

She did, but within months of relocating to Philadelphia Frazier’s Gym closed, which was the first major setback to her career.

About a month later Marianne relocated to the James Shuler Memorial Gym in West Philadelphia, within a month or so of the move Livvy Cunningham, the wife and manager of two time IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham, invited her to join their team.

Later that year, following a sparring session with Christina Leadbeater, promoter Ivan Cohen approached Livvy with an offer to sign Marianne with the intention to debut her early in 2009.

Pennsylvania Boxing Commissioner Greg Sirb, who was also present, was equally impressed and agreed to license Marianne, subject to her obtaining a P1 Professional Athlete Visa.

In February 2009 Marianne returned to the UK, to obtain the visa that would enable her to fight, on the undercard of Brian Cohen’s WBC Continental Americas title fight in South Philly on the 9th May that year.

Unfortunately the American Embassy in London refused her application, as she hadn’t fought in an international competition in the UK.

What followed next was a full on media campaign, initiated by a Philadelphia journalist Kerry O’Connor and supported by some of the biggest names from the City of Brotherly Love.

Within days the campaign went global, almost instantly the American Immigration service was inundated with e.mails and phone calls from tens of thousands of boxing fans, calling for them to allow Marianne to return and fight.

Needless to say, bureaucrats being what they are by nature, they refused to change their decision.

However, that wasn’t going to stop Marianne’s promoter, the aforementioned Ivan Cohen, who came up with a plan, code named ‘Team America’, with the intention of bringing over a team of Philly based boxers, comprising of Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, Daphir ‘No Fear’ Smith, Brian ‘Bionic Bull’ Cohen, Gerald ‘The Jedi’ Nobles, Eric ‘The Outlaw’ Hunter, Tim Witherspoon Jnr, Nathalie Brown and Christina Leadbeater, to take on a UK team that would include Marianne.

Supporting ‘Team America’ on this mission were some serious ‘Big Guns’ in the form of World Champions, Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham, ‘Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon, Buster Drayton, Robert ‘Bam Bam’ Hines and of course the man who ‘discovered’ and brought Marianne to America in the first place, Smokin’ Joe Frazier.

However, the British Boxing Board of Control soon put an end to that plan, by refusing to license Marianne.

BBBofC General Secretary Robert Smith stated, to MBC Vice President Gianluca Di Caro, that he didn’t see any reason why they should license her, as she would have just one fight here and then return to America – a valid point in one way I suppose, Marianne did have an unprecedented twelve fight contract awaiting her return Stateside, but surely a license should be issued based on someone’s boxing ability, not according to where they would be fighting for part, or even all, of their career.

However everything became crystal clear shortly after, as Mr Smith then went on to say that he doesn’t approve of Women Boxing (I considered writing everything that he said on his thoughts about Women boxing, but I feel it would be way too offensive to ALL Women.)

Marianne appealed to no avail on a number of occasions over the following two years, before successfully applying to the Malta Boxing Commission in August 2011.

Finally overcoming the ridiculous levels of bureaucracy, from both the American Embassy and the British Boxing Board of Control, Marianne was able to fight, or was she.

Well yes and no, because the BBBofC still wouldn’t allow her to fight in the UK on an overseas license, even though various UK promoters and boxing luminaries had lobbied on her behalf, but this all changed earlier in 2013, following the German Boxing Association becoming the second European organization, after Luxembourg Boxing Federation, to take advantage of revised European legislation that allows other European sanctioning organisations to sanction events in the UK.

So finally Marianne made her long awaited professional debut, at York Hall on the 27th April 2013, against Hungary’s Gabriella Roman and boy did she do it in style.

The fight was over before the end of the first round, after Marianne sent Gabriella to the canvas twice in under two minutes, a third visit was on the cards when referee Ken Curtis called a halt to the proceedings on the one minute and forty seven second mark.

Six months later Marianne was back at the York Hall, this time to face Romania’s Catalina Lazar, as before this bout was over in the first round, after just 20 seconds Marianne sent Catalina to the canvas with a cracking body shot.

Catalina managed to beat the count, only to succumb to another powerful body shot, from which the Romanian girl couldn’t recover. This time the bout was over in just sixty seven seconds.

Marianne was elevated in the rankings to British #1 in her division as well as the British #1 Pound-for-Pound female boxer.

With less than three minutes competitive ring time total in her two fights to date it came as a huge surprise to many when it was announced, that for her third bout, she was to challenge Galina Gumliiska for the World Boxing Union (WBU) European Super Bantamweight title.

However, this was not to be as Galina failed her medicals, with that opportunity gone it was then announced that she would challenge Hana Horacova for the Featherweight version of the WBU European belt.

After utterly dominating the first few rounds of the contest Marianne burst the piriformis muscle in her back late on in the third, which trapped the sciatic nerve.

Barely able to move her left leg somehow Marianne managed to stay in the fight right up to the final bell, however her good lead had suffered and when the judges scorecards were read out she was on the wrong side of a split points decision – Judge Ken Curtis scored the bout 75-78 and Judge Seamus Dunne scored it 77-76 in favour of Hana and Judge Billy Phillips scored the bout 77-76 in favour of Marianne.

For her next bout, at York Hall on the 25th October 2014, Marianne was once again in Championship action, this time against Hungarian #1, European #3 and World #31 ranked Marianna Gulyas.

This time no such problems for Marianne, who dominated proceedings from start to finish, as well as sending Marianna Gulyas to the canvas no less than seven times, although Referee Alf Sprung surprisingly only counted two of these.

Judge Matt Hamilton (South Africa) and Ben Doughty (UK) scored the bout 100-89 and Judge Lee Murtagh (Ireland) scorecard read 99-88 all in favour of Marianne, who became crowned the inaugural MBC International (female) Super Bantamweight Champion.

To keep up to date with Marianne’s career please either go to her website www.mariannemarston.com or follow her on facebook www.facebook.com/marianne.marston and www.facebook.com/MarianneMarstonFanPage or on Twitter www.twitter.com/MarianneMarston