Northampton is not the most renowned for its fighting past, great fighters or almost anything when compared to the rest of the nation. However, the small town in the East Midlands has a new star! Their proud daughter, IBO World champion Chantelle Cameron.
It was in the Eastern District of Northampton that a young Chantelle Cameron fell in love with combat sports and – martial arts in general. Having interviewed many fighters in my time, it’s an age-old question; Who were your inspirations growing up? The undefeated Lightweight’s answer was more than un-expected.
“I was mainly just a fight fan, I enjoyed all types of martial arts; kickboxing, muay thai, boxing. All types of martial arts! I am a massive Jean Claude Van Damme fan. I literally watched his movies all the time, specifically Kickboxer, It’s brilliant. It was a massive inspiration for me growing up. I can remember being mesmerised by all the great martial artists; Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme.”
It came as no surprise that Chantelle’s first experience of fighting competitively came in the form of muay thai and kickboxing, being inspired by the movies of Jean Claude Van Damme.
Chantelle became successful in combat sports from an early age winning World championships in kickboxing, leading on to a very successful amateur boxing career. However in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic games, she missed out on qualification, losing in the World Championships, held in Kazakhstan. Like many other big names within the amateur set up, Chantelle moved into the paid ranks at a time Women’s boxing was on the edge of breaking into the mainstream.
“We got the call to go meet the guys at Cyclone (Promotions). As soon as I walked through the door, I had a great feeling about it. They were all there; Barry, Shane and Blain (McGuigan), the whole team. I knew straight away this was the place for me to turn professional. It was interesting actually, because Shane wanted to try me out on the pads straight away. I was a little worried actually, as I had been out of the gym for 3 months due to an injury. But as soon as I started to work with Shane, I was so impressed with him. I was like, ‘WOW! This is so much more advanced to what I am used to.’
“Me and Shane clicked straight away. From the way he wrapped my hands to how good he was working on the pads. It was so new and refreshing to be trained by somebody like Shane.”
What preceded Chantelle’s life changing opportunity was a stark contrast to what has happened in her professional career over the past year.
“I had become a bit disheartened with the sport in my amateur gym before I linked up with Cyclone. I had missed out on the Rio Olympics and wasn’t getting the decisions going my way. I was being told that my style was more suited to the professional ranks, it had become clear I had to make a change.”
Women’s boxing has seen a steep turn of fortunes in the past year. Although Chantelle had a solid media profile and was fighting on the World stage, before 2017 many female fighters were looking at other combat sports, simply in order to get paid a decent income. In 2015, Chantelle gave an interview to Sky Sports stating she would have been interested in an MMA career.
“Haha! I would have been no good at the wrestling though. I am a stand-up fighter and have limited wrestling experience, so I would have struggled with that side of the sport. But at the time there was almost no female professional boxing happening. At the time, Ronda Rousey had broken through at the UFC and my goal at the time was to compete professionally one day.”
Like all young aspiring champions, they all have one thing in common. A decision to make on their lifestyle!
“I am very lucky to have great people around me. I do have a very unusual life compared to most 18 to 26 years old’s though! Most people my age are out having fun and nights out. But it’s part of the game and you have to stay fit and in the gym. Having a good set of people around me is a massive help.”
Even more unusual is the fact Chantelle has regularly sparred males throughout her career. Her response to my implication that it must be very dangerous and challenging, was one of sheer enthusiasm, testing herself at the highest level.
“I actually prefer sparring males. I am more switched on and I learn so much more as well. I am more switched on as men tend to be harder punchers, quicker and faster. I develop so much more as a fighter, so I get more out of sparring males.”
Like most boxing fans, reporters and critics, I decided to play matchmaker for a moment, asking her thoughts on Katie Taylor and any potential super fights with the Irish WBA champion.
“Katie Taylor is an amazing athlete! What she has done for Women’s boxing is amazing! But at the moment, I am on my own journey and have to take the right steps in my career. Saying that, my plan is to unify the division one day, so Katie Taylor would become relevant in that respect. It’s likely that fight could happen one day.”
Next up for Chantelle is a slot on the undercard of Josh Taylor v Humberto Soto in Glasgow on March 3rd. No opponent has been named for Chantelle as yet, however the IBO Lightweight champion’s mind was fimly set on continuing her development.
“I am hoping we can get a good, tough girl in for my fight. Ideally someone who will come forward and want to fight. I do need rounds though, part of me is hoping I can get a full ten rounds in and show my full set of skills to the crowd. I want the full ten rounds as I have more to show boxing fans.”
Signing with Cyclone Promotions, 5 fights unbeaten under the tutelage of Shane McGuigan and now with the IBO title round her waist, Chantelle Cameron’s professional career couldn’t have got off to a better start. As we head into the thick of 2018, Chantelle Cameron appears to be on the brink of stardom at a time when women’s boxing has been on its greatest stage.
By Adam Noble-Forcey