IF you ever hear the chant: “There’s only one Chantelle Cameron,” don’t believe it. There are several. There’s the Chantelle Cameron who’s a glamorous presence at charity functions, there’s the one who puts on overalls and helps her father do jobs around the house and then there’s the Chantelle Cameron readers of Boxing News are familiar with.
The one who fights.
She’s trained by Jamie Moore and he has noticed there’s more than one version of the 29-year-old from Northampton. “Chantelle is so nice,” said the former British, Commonwealth and European super-welterweight champion, “but when she gets in the ring, she’s an animal.”
At Moore’s gym in Greater Manchester, they know Cameron as ‘Il Capo’ – or ‘The Boss.’ “Jamie’s wife Colleen came up with the name,” said Cameron. “I didn’t want to be ‘Wham Bam Chan’ anymore.
“Jamie texted me ‘Il Capo,’ I Googled it and I loved it. It’s because of the way I fight. I’m in charge of the ring.”
Cameron laughed at the suggestion it’s because she’s the boss of a gym that includes Carl Frampton, Rocky Fielding and Martin Murray. Five days a week, Cameron heads there from the flat in Irlam she shares with unbeaten middleweight Savannah Marshall, a friend since they were amateurs, and mention of the gym puts a smile on her face. “As soon as I walked in the gym I felt right at home,” she said. “Jamie is very positive and it’s fun. It’s always a good laugh.”
The Cameron-Moore partnership will be put to the test on Sunday (October 4). Cameron meets Brazil’s 2012 and 2016 Olympian Adriana Araujo (6-0) for the WBC super-lightweight championship vacated by Jessica McCaskill. The fight Cameron wants, and a sizeable number of the fight public wants to see, is with Katie Taylor, who held off a determined Delfine Persoon in their rematch in August to keep her lightweight belts. Cameron is at No 1 in the WBC rankings at 135lbs – and there’s history between her and Taylor. The Irishwoman was a points winner when they met in the semi-finals of the Women’s EU Championship in Poland in 2011.
“Katie is the biggest name in women’s boxing, so that’s the fight I want,” said Cameron. “It’s not just a big fight for women’s boxing – it’s a big fight for boxing.
“There’s so much interest in the fight it could even be pay-per-view.”
The whisper is, Taylor’s camp have been annoyed that Cameron often mentions her in interviews. The reality is, Cameron is always asked about Taylor by reporters and, as is to be expected, Chantelle backs herself to beat her. “Delfine showed Katie’s weaknesses,” she said. “You can see that if you put the pressure on, she will crumble. Katie’s strengths are her speed and boxing, but as soon as you take her out of her comfort zone, she struggles.”
Cameron admits that without Taylor and Nicola Adams, she wouldn’t be fighting for world honours live on Sky Sports this weekend. “Becoming a world champion at professional boxing wasn’t possible when I started going to the gym,” she said. “I wanted to a be a kickboxing world champion and then when I started boxing, the target was the Olympics. Now the target is to unify the world titles. Katie and Nicola Adams have done a lot for women’s boxing. They have helped make all this possible.”
Cameron praised new promoter Eddie Hearn for his support of women’s boxing – and she has done her bit herself. She launched her professional career in 2017 with the McGuigans and their deal with Channel Five gave Cameron the chance to fight in front of a huge audience – and shock her neighbours. She grew up on the Standens Barn estate in Northampton’s tough Eastern District and said: “People started to recognise me when I was out shopping – and they all seemed to say the same thing.
“They all said how aggressive I am!
“People around the estate knew I was a boxer, but I think they expected me to be a tippy, tappy girl boxer.
“But when they saw me fight, they saw that I’m ferocious and I love to fight.”
Cameron has always loved fighting. Growing up, she wanted to fight vampires. Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in cult TV show ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ as the high-school heroine who punched and kicked vampires into oblivion and Cameron said: “I was obsessed with that show when I was 10 years old.
“But there weren’t any vampires in Northampton, so I had to beat up the boys on my street instead.
“The girls at school were into Barbie and I was into Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
“I went to the kickboxing gym and went in there swinging and making the boys cry. I didn’t know what I was doing – but I loved it. The coaches were saying: ‘Who is this?’ And the boys stopped going because I was making them cry.”
Cameron says she had “hundreds” of kickboxing fights – including 11 full contact – and at 16, she claimed world honours in Muay Thai in Florida by winning three fights in as many days. To improve her hands, Cameron went to a local amateur boxing gym – and stayed. “My coach put me in for a bout, I won it and stuck with it,” she said. “Kickboxing was my passion, but my dad had to pay for everything when I was a kickboxer. When I started boxing, they paid me.”
Cameron went on to have “over 100” amateur bouts and spent eight years with the Great Britain squad in Sheffield. The highlight was probably winning the Olympic Test event in Rio in December, 2015. She beat Estelle Mosselly in the final, but while the Frenchwoman went on to win Olympic gold, Cameron didn’t even qualify. “The bell in the other ring went off, my opponent stopped fighting, but I carried on and they took a point off me and I lost a split,” remembered Cameron of her defeat to Finland’s Mira Potkonen in the Women’s World Championship in Kazakhstan in May, 2016. “By the end of my amateur career, I was sick of it.”
So sick of boxing did Cameron become, she thought of quitting. “I had a leg injury and had three months off training,” she said. “That gave me a lot of time to think.”
Cameron came to the conclusion that fighting is what she does best. “I decided I want to do as well as I can out of boxing so I can open a gym and buy properties,” she said, “and never have to work a day in my life!
“I’ve tried working and it wasn’t for me!
“I got sacked by Tesco’s because I never turned up and when I tried labouring for my dad I kept telling him: ‘I’ve got to save my energy for the gym so I’m off for a nap.’
“I got a Saturday job in [department store] Peacocks as well, but that didn’t last long either. I would do a six-hour shift and be shattered. That tired me out more than going to the gym.”
Cameron explained why fighting has been her life. “It comes naturally to me,” she said. “I’ve got a strong mindset. I go into every fight thinking: ‘Whatever you throw at me, I will come out on top. Whatever you’ve got, I’ve got more.’”
That’s been the case in her first 12 fights and her last opponent, Anahi Ester Sanchez, had won world honours at 135lbs and 140lbs.
The Argentine couldn’t stay with Cameron and after 10 rounds, two judges had her a shut-out winner. “She was a former world champion,” said Cameron of Sanchez, “and knew what she was doing.
“She was slick, had good movement and was catching me. I know I can take a good shot – and give one. She took some punishment herself.”
Notably in the ninth when Cameron punched Sanchez to her knees. That result made Cameron the mandatory challenger for the WBC belt at 140lbs and she is similarly placed at 135lbs after a dominant performance against Anisha Basheel in Brentwood last July. Basheel had stopped her previous eight opponents – including Leeds’ Sam Smith for the vacant Commonwealth title – but struggled to lay a glove on Cameron. “People know me for taking a punch to land one,” she said, “but I had never had that sort of opponent before. I knew she could punch – and I showed I can box.
“I can go on the back foot and make them miss.”
Perhaps Cameron’s greatest strength is her workrate. Moore and former amateur coach John Daly have been left open mouthed by her performances in the gym and none of her 12 opponents has come close to matching Cameron’s appetite for fighting. Chantelle says she “loves” what she does, but is looking forward to a life without boxing.
“I want to do what I want to do in the next two years,” she said, “and then get out.
“I love doing it, but I have been fighting since I was 10 and by the time I want out, I will have been fighting for 20 years.
“I have missed out on so much.
“Because of one of my fights, I missed my best friend’s hen do. We grew up together and then I couldn’t make it.
“After a while, friends stop inviting you out because they know you are going to say: ‘No’ and relationships are a distraction.
“They can go a bit pear shaped when you’re in a training camp.
“You end up having arguments over whether you should go to parties or meet with friends and it’s better for me to be on my own.
“I’ve found that out the hard way. I was in a relationship when I was going for the Olympics, but it put a lot of strain on us and we ended up splitting.
“That made me decide to forget about relationships until I’ve finished boxing.
“I want to get out of boxing at the top. I don’t want to hang around for too long and end up fighting for money. I have a good team around me and they will tell me when the time is right for me to get out.”