Women’s boxing sensation and ex-Team GB amateur starlet Chantelle Cameron (4-0-0), is just days out from what will prove to be the most defining night of her professional career.
A fight against Brazilian-born Viviane Obenauf (12-3-0) on the 2nd of December at the Leicester Arena for the IBO world lightweight title.
For Cameron however, the road to this point has been one filled with highs and lows. In her amateur career prior to turning professional, she endured controversial decisions and even Olympic heartbreak.
Her journey to the stature she now carries in the sport began at the mere age of 10 – before even putting on a pair of gloves: “When I was younger I’d always make people play-fight with me but then we’d get parents knocking at my mums door moaning saying I’d been making the boys cry,” Cameron says humorously.
Yet it was these harmless scuffles that led to the first chapter in her fighting career – kickboxing. She began to ask her parents if they would take her to try out the sport – they were however, less than keen: “They were really against it. But in the end they took me to the kickboxing club because I wouldn’t shut up about it. They were really anti me fighting in the beginning.”
What followed is in itself nothing short of incredible – beginning in semi-contact kickboxing tournaments as a child to winning world titles in full-contact kickboxing and even Thai boxing as a teenager.
Even having won multiple world titles across both sports, Cameron was due to finish her A-Levels studying PE, Business and IT – and was thinking about a career. Realisation hit that in her true passion, kickboxing, the earning potential was going to be fairly low. She had to find something else.
Chance has a strange way of creating great things in life, and at this juncture in Cameron’s career came an announcement – the inclusion of women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympics, causing her to consider a future in the sport.
Recounting her first visit to a boxing gym at the age of 18, she says: “I didn’t think I’d be any good at boxing, I thought I’d be useless. I ended up going and the first time I went I didn’t like it because it was all men and I was like: ‘I don’t like this’, it felt a bit shady. I didn’t go back for like a month or two.”
Her feelings are not dissimilar to other women starting out in their journey in a historically male dominated sport – however Cameron is leading the way in putting that right.
“From my experience, talking to the older generation of men, they say: ‘I hate women fighting, women shouldn’t fight’ and I’d just keep my mouth quiet. Then they’d see me fight and I’d go up to them after and their attitude completely changes.”
Not only was she proving women could fight, but she was also beginning to have her first official amateur fights in a boxing ring – and it didn’t take long for success to come to fruition.
In what must be one of the quickest roads to a national title, at the age of 18, Cameron picked up the 64kgs ABA Elite crown in 2009 after just three fights. She won it again the year after that, too.
After just a handful of contests Cameron was boxing for her country, and instantly attracted the attention of the next step up in her career, Team GB. Her six-year GB career beginning in 2011 at the age of 19 included an array of titles, but was also marred by heartbreak and disappointment.
The bitterest pill to swallow however, came in the build up to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Northampton star was pitted to be one of the favourites for the gold medal – but sadly failed to qualify after being on the receiving end of some dubious decisions. In what notably is a more difficult part of the conversation she explains: “I worked solid to get to Rio so it was really disheartening.
“It wasn’t my destiny to go to the Olympics,” she says. Making it even more unbearable, the woman who went on to win the gold medal Cameron had beaten – on various prior occasions.
“The girl I beat 8 times went on and won gold,” she says. “I was like, you’ve all got my medals and my life could have been so different.”
Having experienced such bitter disappointment, she decided enough was enough as an amateur boxer, and began to look to other things – formally leaving the GB squad in early 2017.
It is however often cliched that when you’ve had a blight of bad luck – something good is usually around the corner. Thankfully for Cameron, that cliche transpired to be true: “I was really lucky my amateur coach told me I had a chance to have a meeting with the McGuigans. So I thought, Jesus – this could be a change.
“I had even planned to go to Australia to work there but because I knew they were interested in signing me I put that on hold. I can travel later in my life,” she says, with now a more evident sense of happiness.
The subsequent meetings with the McGuigans and Cyclone Promotions resulted in Cameron agreeing a deal, appointing Shane as her trainer, and the signing being announced to the public in May of 2017.
Explaining her choice of Shane as a trainer, she says: “Everyone wants to train with Shane and to be fair I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity. I enjoy being trained by him because he teaches me so much and I love learning.
“Now after each fight I’m taking something on board, I’m coming back and I’m learning more. I gel with him as well, he’s easy to get along with which is really good it makes your job a lot easier doesn’t it.”
Praising Cameron’s ability, Shane said: “When the opportunity arose to work with Chantelle I saw she can really fight and is a lovely girl. I believe she’s going to do a lot in the sport – she can win world titles in at least two weight divisions. Women’s boxing is going through a transitional period – and I feel one of the main faces of that is going to be Chantelle Cameron.”
Boxing legend, Hall of Famer, MBE and former WBA featherweight world champion, Barry McGuigan also spoke highly of her potential: “I’d heard that Chantelle had great stamina and strength from different people – so then I watched fights from her kickboxing days. I thought she was ferocious as a kick-boxer and knew she would be much more suited to the pro game.
“Chantelle came down, I watched her training and was so impressed with her, and Shane told me that she punched very hard. I just thought she’s got all the right ingredients and she’s a lovely girl with a great personality.
“Chantelle’s gonna be a real star in the pro game because her style is suited to it. She’s aggressive, relentless and the power is incredible. I think she’s going to win multiple world titles.”
The job at hand however is the first of her potential world title endeavours on 2nd of December on Cyclone’s ‘All or Nothing’ show against Viviane Obenauf. She says: “I’m just looking at it as another fight, I’m boxing for a world title but the objective is just to win – doesn’t matter what title is on the line.
“I’m hoping we are both going to throw a lot and it’s going to be a good entertaining fight for the fans. I always look at what’s in front of me, but I’ll hopefully get the win, have a good Christmas and get back on it in the new year. I want to be unified world champion.”
With such a devotion to the sport it’s easy to forget that here we also have Chantelle the individual. When asked what she enjoys away from the ring she jokes: “Eating!”. Life in training sadly doesn’t permit some of the finer foods we all enjoy. She also explains her likes for both travelling and socialising – two more things which are a luxury for a boxer in their strict training regimes.
Her story so far is a fascinating one, with new chapters being written constantly – and this phase could prove to be the most exciting of all.
Continue to follow her journey on Twitter: @chantellecam
Sam West is World Boxing News correspondent for McGuigan’s Gym. Follow Sam on Twitter @samwest944