Olympic heartache has put pro Cameron on a path to the top

Chantelle Cameron will be fighting in Leicester on Saturday
Chantelle Cameron will be fighting in Leicester on Saturday

It is often said that things happen for a reason - and that certainly seems to ring true for Chantelle Cameron.

Cameron was agonisingly close to earning a place at the Rio Olympics as part of the Great Britain boxing squad in 2016.

But, needing a semi-final finish in the World Championships in Kazhakstan, she was denied on a split decision against Finland’s Mira Potkonen in the lightweight preliminaries.

That heartache, in May, 2016, left Cameron reeling, desperately needing to rebuild mentally after all her hard work went to waste.

“I was adamant I wasn’t going to carry on,” Cameron said.

“I was hoping to work in schools and do any sort of work that was away from boxing.

“I wanted to do PE teaching or just go into a call centre.

“Money’s money and I was thinking if I was going to be happier, I’d go for it.

“The amateurs broke my heart and I say now that I wish I didn’t waste so many years on the GB squad, but it was the only thing I knew.

“I’ve never had a proper job - I’ve always boxed.

“I felt stuck with GB and every week I was dreading going to Sheffield to train, I was dreading tournaments, I dreaded it all, but it was better than working.

“Boxing as a living is what we all want to do and I had that opportunity, but I just had no love for it in the amateurs.”

Cameron’s misery was compounded by the fact girls she had previously beaten claimed the headlines at the Rio Olympics.

The Northamptonian didn’t watch the tournament as it was too painful, instead preferring to lock herself away in her room for a while.

“I was so sad,” she said. “I didn’t watch it. It broke me.

“It’s one of the lowest I’ve been. It was horrible.

“My whole life just shattered in front of me and I’ve never felt that before.

“My family was really good, but for about two weeks, I just shut myself off. I wouldn’t see anyone, I stayed in my house, I was embarrassed.

“My mum (Wendy) was really good with me, saying ‘Chan, it’s just boxing, pick yourself up’.

“My brother (Alec) was always there for me and he was also another massive influence in getting me through it.”

Cameron eventually returned to the ring six months later, but was beaten on a unanimous decision by Russia’s Alexandra Ordina in the quarter-finals of the European Championships.

It appeared that Cameron had reached the end of the road in boxing.

“Everyone was trying to stop me from quitting and I did try another tournament straight after - the European Championships - and they robbed me with another bad decision there,” she explained.

“I beat the Russian for four rounds, clear, and they raised her hand.

“After that, I laughed at the decision and thought ‘that’s definitely me done now’.”

Cameron returned to the Far Cotton ABC gym on Towcester Road to simply keep fit.

“If I don’t go to the gym, it messes my head up,” she said.

“I think I’m getting fat and lazy and I couldn’t be laying on the couch every week.”

But returning to the gym did more for Cameron that just keep the weight off.

With the guidance of Far Cotton head coach John Daly and surrounded by the friends she has built up during her time in the sport, Cameron rediscovered her love for boxing.

And a big opportunity was to arrive after Daly got in touch with Barry McGuigan, boxing legend and chief of Cyclone Promotions.

“I got back in the gym because I wanted to keep fit and I just felt like I wanted to hit things,” Cameron said. “When you’ve had a bad day, you want to whack a bag or have a spar to let some frustration out.

“I then decided to go to America for a holiday with my friend, Savannah Marshall, because we both quit GB and used our last pay to book a trip away.

“But then I met the McGuigans and I didn’t want to go away because I wanted to get training and get back on it.

“I went on holiday but when I was in America I did my runs and stuff out there to get my fitness back up. I hadn’t trained for three months.”

Cameron quickly got back up to speed and she is now four fights in as a professional.

She has won all of them, defeating Karina Kopinska on debut before earning TKO victories against Bojana Libiszewska, Bilitis Gaucher and, most recently, Edith Ramos.

Cameron cruised past Ramos, stopping her in the third round to claim the IBO Inter-Continental crown.

And she will now battle Viviane Obenauf for the IBO World Lightweight title at Leicester this weekend.

“I’ve improved massively,” Cameron said.

“In the amateurs, I was stale. I was just going through the motions, not learning a lot.

“You can tell from my pro debut that I was a bit rushed, but in my second and third fights there were slight adjustments.

“It’s come from working with (trainers) Shane (McGuigan) and Josh (Pritchard), who are always improving me.

“Every day is a school day in that gym.

“I’m always learning something new, they’re always bringing something different to my style, giving me new combinations to work on.

“It’s brilliant and I love it.“

This has been the highlight of my whole fighting career, from 10 up to 26.

“This is my final chapter and I’m enjoying this the most out of any chapter I’ve had.

“I love training, I love the fights - there’s not one thing I don’t like about it.

“It’s true that everything does happen for a reason and I packed boxing in until I got told I had a chance to sign with the McGuigans.”

Cameron, who grew up in Northampton’s Eastern District, is now targeting world domination.

She said: “I train really hard and I’m always finding improvements I can make.

“I just focus on improvement all the time because if I get complacent I won’t get to where I want to be.

“I want to be multiple world champion.

“Even if I win this weekend, I want more. I want to clean up the divisions.”

Tickets for Cameron's fight are still available at Far Cotton ABC's gym on Towcester Road, Northampton, and by contacting @chantellecam on Twitter.