For this edition of Up Close and Personal Iím really pleased to
catch up with a true battler, both inside and outside the ring,
Marianne ĎGolden Girlí Marston, ahead of her upcoming bout
against Masa Bacanov on the Dave Murphy Acourtier Events
promoted NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS mega event at York Hall in Bethnal
Green, London on Friday 4th October.
With all the press Marianne has received over the years,
especially during her time in America, I am sure most readers
are already aware of Marianne, but whilst she attracts a lot of
column inches, invariably itís about the superstar boxers that
back her to go all the way, her visa woes, or her efforts to
encourage more women to box, which is great, but I want
something a little bit different, I wanted the real Marianne
As such following a recent sparring session, with former British
and European Bantamweight Champion Ian ĎDappaí Napa, at the TRAD
TKO gym I managed to persuade Marianne, who also coaches at the
gym, to take a few minutes out from her busy schedule to answer
a few questions.
But before we get to the interview itself, I feel a little scene
setting is in order.
Marianne was discovered by late, great Heavyweight Champion of
the World Smokiní 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
Frazierís Gym closed, which was the first major setback to her
About a month later Marianne relocated to the James Shuler
Memorial Gym in West Philadelphia, within a month or so Livvy
Cunningham, the wife and manager of two time IBF Cruiserweight
Champion Steve ĎUSSí Cunningham invited her to join their team.
Later that year, following a sparring session with Christina
Leadbeater, promoter Ivan Cohen approached Livvy Cunningham with
an offer to sign Marianne and 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
Cohenís 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 hadnít fought in an international
competition here in the UK.
What followed next was a full on media campaign, initiated by a
Philadelphia journalist Kerry OíConnor 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 wasnít going to stop Marianneís 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
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 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 me personally
that he didnít see any reason why they should license her, as
she would have just one fight here and then return to America Ė
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
someoneís 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 doesnít approve of Women
Boxing (I considered writing everything that he said to me 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 another
European sanctioning body 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 wouldnít allow her to
fight in the UK on an overseas license, even though various
promoters and boxing luminaries had lobbied on her behalf, but
this all changed earlier this year, 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, in April this year Marianne made her long awaited
professional debut, against Hungaryís Gabriella Roman.
The following is an extract from my report of the event.
ďSoaking up every moment of the occasion Marston finally entered
the ring and once again acknowledged the highly vocal and
appreciative crowd until the final chord of the emotive ring
Once referee Ken Curtis had completed his pre fight rule talk it
was time for action.
Marston lithely prowled her way across the ring to meet her
opponent head on with a massive right hand jab, closely followed
with a big left, Roman was clearly stunned by the massive early
assault, but still managed to cover up just as a second double
handed barrage was thrown, closely followed up with a big left
to the head sending the Hungarian girl to the canvas.
Roman recovered sufficiently to box defensively against the ever
forward moving Marston, however after about twenty seconds or so
Marston corralled the Hungarian in her own corner, with nowhere
to go Roman covered up in preparation for yet another double
As the seemingly never ending barrage rained down Roman
succumbed to the inevitable and went down for a second time.
With barely enough time to catch her breath Roman once again was
forced to cover up, as Marston continued to throw massive double
The onslaught proved too much for Roman, who had let her hands
drop enough for Marston to land a big right to the head,
followed by an equally vicious left to send her reeling against
the corner post.
Marston could smell blood and pounced in for the kill, first
landing a massive overhand right closely followed by another
wicked left hook, which shook Roman to the core.
Then, on the one minute forty seven second mark, just as Marston
was about to throw yet another big left to the head of the
clearly disoriented Hungarian, referee Ken Curtis jumped in to
save the now virtually defenseless Roman from further
As soon as she realized it was over and she had won, an ecstatic
Marston turned towards the legion of fans to her left and made
an emotional statement, dedicating her victory to the memory of
her mentor Smokiní Joe Frazier.Ē
The victory was so emphatic that the following day World Boxing
Federationís South Africa based President Howard Goldberg
contacted Marianneís promoter, Dave Murphy, offering to fast
track Marianne for a title shot, which if all goes to plan will
take place in London in November, or early next year.
OK, so the scene is set, now itís time to get on to the
interview with the girl tagged ĎThe Golden Girlí by the late,
great Smokiní Joe.
Rio: Do you come from a family Boxing background?
Marianne: Neither of my parents have a boxing background.
I come from quite a sleepy village in Norfolk and attended an
all girls school, so
sport wise Fencing (Foil) and swimming were my forte.
I was ranked #6 in the under 16ís in Fencing and competed at
swimming for the Norwich Penguins.
Rio: In that case when did you first become interested in boxing
Marianne: The first time I became interested in boxing I was
just a kid, I canít remember what the fight was, it was either a
Mike Tyson or a Frank Bruno fight and I wanted to box then.
My mum took me to Norwich Lads Club, I guess the local amateur
club and they pointed out itís a lads club and they wouldnít let
It wasnít until many, many years that I started training, just
for the fun of it with Choleton Senior, whoíd boxed himself, and
got bitten by the bug at that point.
Rio: Why did you decide to turn pro?
Marianne: I hadnít really thought about turning pro, or even
competing, until I was at Joe Frazierís and they wanted to turn
me pro quite quickly, I guess it was a combination of age,
therefore how much time I would have in the amateurs and I think
my style is a little more suited to the pros than the amateurs.
Rio: Who are the main ĎTeam Golden Girlí members?
Marianne: Johnny Eames is my manager and I have to name two
people on the training side, Iím training with Brian
OíShaughnessy at the moment but Barry Smith has been a big part
of how I box now, especially the power in my punches, so I have
to credit him too.
Rio: Whatís your training schedule?
Marianne: Tough, I guess I train a couple of hours a day at the
gym, all the boxing stuff, Pads work, sparring, heavy bag
depending on the day and outside that on a different part of the
day do a run, anywhere between three and six miles, sometimes I
do sprints, itís all about the legs.
Rio: What is your favourite part of training?
Marianne: It depends on my mood, but I suppose my favourite
would be doing the floor work although Iím really enjoying the
technique work on the pads with Brian at the moment, as Iím
learning new skills and I always enjoy that.
Rio: Who have you been sparring for your upcoming fight?
Marianne: Ian Napa is my main sparring partner, which is an
education, the manís phenomenal, I know heís retired but heís
He comes in and psyches me out by doing twelve rounds on the
heavy bag when weíre not sparring, heís as fit and difficult as
heís always been
It really has been exceptional sparring and I really do believe
if I can hold my own with him, I can hold my own with anyone.
Iíve also got sparring with Angel McKenzie and Darren Hamilton.
Iíve known Angel and Darren for years, Angel will be fighting
Jennifer Retzke on October 4th, Iím so pleased Angel gets to
fight here for a World title, instead of always being the away
What can I say about Darren, British Champion, great boxer and a
great guy that is always happy to help out with advice or
I was also supposed to be sparring amateur Lightweight Kimberley
Leah, who I train at the TRAD TKO Gym, but she badly injured her
ankle last week.
Kim is seriously good, very technical, as sheís a lot taller
than me sparring is always challenging. Iím hoping to turn her
pro later this year or early next. Sheís so talented, sheíll do
very, very well as a pro, I think sheíll go all the way,
definitely a future World Champion.
Rio: How would you describe your fight style?
Marianne: Iím a bit of a bully, I donít back down, youíre going
to have to knock me down and keep me down to stop me coming
I like to attack, I guess Iím quite aggressive, Iím not playing
when I get in the ring, thatís the main thing itís not a game,
itís serious stuff and I intend to win
Rio: Which has been your favourite fight to date and why?
Marianne: Thatís an easy one, Iíve only had the one pro fight.
I fought Gabriella Roman in April on my debut. It didnít last
long at all, I think it was one minute and forty seven seconds
of the first round.
I put her down quite early, after that she went very defensive
so I kept up the pressure, backed her into my corner and put her
After the count I went straight back on the attack and she was
already on her way down again when the referee stopped the
I didnít even realize heíd stopped the fight I thought she was
going to get another count, but when Dave (promoter Dave Murphy)
told me thatís it, itís over and only then it dawned on me Iíd
won my first fight.
Rio: Who is your all time favourite boxer and why?
Marianne: Itís Joe Frazier followed by Manny Pacquiao.
Why? Joe Frazier, he always goes forward, he was the little guy
in the ring, because as a heavyweight he was a small
I just loved the way he just came forward, the pressure, the
movement, so hard to hit, so powerful on the attack.
As an attacking fighter myself I enjoy that and enjoy watching
that. I think he has the same thing that I have, you have to put
him down and keep him down to stop him.
Manny Pacquiao, heís a southpaw like me, as a southpaw you
should always watch the best southpaw boxers in the world and
Manny Pacquiao is definitely that guy.
I love watching his technique, the way he moves in and out, to
me thatís a skill I aspire to.
Iíd also like to include Keith Thurman to my list, heís one of
my favourite rising star fighters of the moment, heís a
phenomenal fighter, serious power.
I like big punchers, Iím not talking two guys just punching each
other but have serious skill as well.
Rio: Keeping in the same vein, all time favourite fight you have
Marianne: Itís between three fights, two were Joe Frazier versus
Mohammed Ali, the one Joe won and the other is the one he won
but didnít, because his corner made him stop not knowing that
Ali wasnít going to come out anyway.
The other was Steve Cunningham versus Marco Huck, Steve
Cunningham is a force to behold, it was beautiful, I love that
kind of boxing, I really do.
It was all out attack, a lot of people watch fights and they say
they are just bashing each other up and ok they do sometimes,
but this was different this was skill even though all out
attack, it was phenomenal.
Rio: Which current match-up would you like to see happen this
Marianne: Well one of my favourite boxers is Steve Cunningham,
obviously I have a real soft spot for Steve, he worked with me
when I was in Philadelphia, the man is phenomenal, it really is
something special to see him in training or fighting.
Of course there is one fighter that avoided him at
Cruiserweight, moved up to Heavyweight to get away from him, so
I think that now Steve has gone up to Heavyweight they should
Thereís nowhere to run now Mr. Haye.
Rio: Whatís your fight day routine?
Marianne: Very, very quiet. I have very small meals up until the
Generally just keeping my head clear, keeping myself relaxed.
Then Steak and chips straight after the weigh-in, well you need
plenty of protein for the fight.
Rio: That takes us right into the next question, what is your
Marianne: For the last fight it was Move by Thousand Foot
I first heard this when I was part of Steve Cunninghamís team
training at Shulerís Gym in Philadelphia, Steve had a promo
video made for the first fight against Tomasz Adamek and Move
was the soundtrack.
It really fires me up every time I hear it, so it really is the
perfect entrance track for me.
I quite like the track that goes ĎI got 99 problems but the
bitch ain't oneí which kind off sums up many things for me, but
Iíd probably stick with Move as I am reluctant to change things,
Iím stupidly superstitious like most sportspeople.
Rio: What are your ambitions as a boxer?
Marianne: Well it would be nice to win a title, but other than
that I would like to be remembered as someone who had good
skills, a proper boxer not someone that just coasted.
Rio: Outside boxing, what is your favourite sport?
Marianne: Football, is the sport I enjoy watching the most,
closely followed by Ice Hockey.
Iím a huge Arsenal fan, I never used to even watch football
until I moved to Highbury a few years ago, Arsenal won the
league and the victory procession went right past my home, so I
went out to watch them pass by, donít know why but it made me
want to go and watch them play one day.
I watched their first game of the new season and was hooked,
after watching Thierry Henry play for the first time.
Before I went to America I used to regularly go to Highbury and
watch them play and later at the Emirates, but since Iíve been
back havenít really had the chance to go and watch them, mainly
because I run a female only boxing class at the TRAD TKO at
three oíclock every Saturday.
When I was in America I became hooked on Ice Hockey, especially
the Philly Flyers, who Iíd go and watch at every opportunity.
You have to admire a sport where youíre allowed to beat the crap
out of the opposition.
For me to partake in, itís shooting or fencing, as Iím pretty
good at both.
Rio: How do you relax outside boxing?
Marianne: I read, I cook and I walk my cat.
I love reading, just not enough time to read enough to satisfy
my insatiable appetite.
Cookingís my passion, if I wasnít hitting stuff I would probably
be whipping, beating, mixing, stirring and baking.
The cat likes to attack foxes, one of these days heís going to
run into a fox that is too big to handle, so I take him for
walks on a lead in the evening, heís a bit like me, he doesnít
know when to back down.
Rio: Favourite book?
Marianne: My favourite author is Terry Pratchett, he is for me
the perfect writer, I have a whole host of second favourites,
which I couldnít begin to name.
I love reading and will read almost anything, as long as itís
At the moment Iím reading James Lee Burke, itís really annoying
heís written twenty odd books and Iím desperate to read them
all, but Iím reading them out of order, which is driving me nuts
as I have to rely on the library.
Rio: Favourite music?
Marianne: Heavy, Heavy Rock, Heavy Metal, just heavy, heavy,
heavy, by bands like Hed Pe, Earth Crisis, Soulfly, Limp Bizkit,
Linkin Park, Sepultura type heavy
Rio: Favourite film or TV show?
Marianne: I watch films and TV but thereís nothing that stands
Rio: Finally is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Marianne: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Marianne Marston, against Masa Bacanov, will feature on the Dave
Murphy Acourtier Events promoted ĎNIGHT OF CHAMPIONSí event,
headlined by Michel Trabant vs TBA and Jennifer Retzke versus
Angel McKenzie World title clashes, at York Hall in Bethnal
Green, London on Friday, 4th October 2013
Tickets, priced £35 (Standard Seated) and £60 (Ringside) are
available on-line at tkoboxoffice.com - mariannemarston.com -
acourtier.com - or in person from the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in
Canning town Ė tkoboxinggym.com - and Ringtone Gym in Euston -
ringtonehealthandfitness.com - or from any of the boxers taking
part in the event, or call Ė 07960 850645, 07809 499896 or 07557
641597 for further information.