BOXING first became a part of my life back when I was a baby listening to my father speak about our relations, and it would become something I would go on to do alongside my two brothers, Hughie and John. My other brother, Jimmy, wasn’t really into boxing but the three of us were.
I remember putting the gloves on with my brothers and doing plenty of sparring as children. We would go all over the country sparring, visiting loads of gyms, and even spent time in Brendan Ingle’s gym. I was there when I was probably nine years of age. We’ve been involved in the sport all our life, but, when we got older, John was the one doing the sport professionally. By then I was a bit more successful in my work, so boxing took a backseat for me. I was still involved in it but only because my brother John was involved. I was helping him with his fights. I would train him and get him ready for them. He couldn’t get fit, he wasn’t doing the right things, and he wasn’t getting the right sparring, so I ended up sparring him myself at one point, as well as training him and getting him fit. He then started to win and do well. But I never touched on it then that I might have a gift for training or anything. I was just helping family out.
John really was the first person I trained. I one day said to him: ‘If you want to do these fights, you’ve got to get fitter. You’re not fit enough. You can do a lot better if you get fit.’ After sparring together, and training together, he started to get some good results.
He was dedicated. He could do it. When he was a young man, he could have a fight. He always had that. We could all have a fight. John has had proper straighteners on the streets and people have been seriously damaged in the past. He was a big unit: six foot three and sixteen and a half stone. He was also a trained pro boxer. I trained him myself and I don’t class myself as an idiot. Neither was he. He did well as a young man. He was certainly not someone with no talent. His record might suggest it but that was just because he didn’t train properly.
We’re travelling people. We were all talented as far as fighting goes but I never touched it [pro boxing] at all. I’d just go in the gym and play around. I’d like getting the gloves on and sparring but I couldn’t be bothered with the training. John was more dedicated and wanted to keep going with the boxing whereas I had an army of other things going on. I couldn’t concentrate on it. I had other business activities at the time. He would have done a lot better if he had been even more dedicated. The fights I trained him for, he won. But the fights I didn’t train him for, he seemed to lose some of them.
I just had the wrong mentality. I’d go in the gym and spar with anybody. That wasn’t a problem. In fact, time and time again people would say, ‘You’re talented. Why don’t you get stuck into it?’ But the problem is, if you’re earning, in the 80s, three or four or five grand a week, and then you’re having a fight and getting 250 pounds and you have to be in the gym five days a week training like a trojan, it doesn’t gel together, does it? Looking back, I was more of a businessman growing up. If I couldn’t do that, and if I had no money as such, it would have been different. Being travelling people, we were married young and we had children. We had to provide for them. There was a lot of that going on. It was always work first, boxing second.
Now you’re seeing a lot of fighters from the travelling communities coming through because their mothers and fathers have made it possible for them to just stick to it. They can see now that it can lead to something. I believe that’s why we’re seeing so many good fighters coming from travelling communities. They are now able to just dedicate themselves to that one job.
I think boxing is highly important for young traveller lads. It’s the best thing they can do. I would tell them all to stay away from all kinds of crime and live in the gym. You don’t see it today but life’s not about today. When you’re young, it’s about building your future. Looking back on my experience, you can want things too quickly. Kids need to knuckle down and dedicate themselves.
It’s still a major part of my life, boxing. I’ve got my family, there are businesses we run, and I’m involved in boxing every day of the week. If I’m not preparing my son Hughie, I’m preparing Savannah Marshall, and if I’m not preparing Savannah, I’m preparing Hughie. We’ve got our own gym and I’m at it 24/7 basically. You can’t get world champions by being a part-time, can you?
Every trainer will tell you there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes in. It’s all about that dedication. When you get that dedication from your fighter, you give it back. Then it’s the perfect blend. I’m lucky with Hughie and Savannah because they are dedicated. I’m happy with them. We spend a lot of time together. When you’re in fight camp and you go in that ring, you want them to achieve and do good things. That’s what you work for.
Anybody with a big ego wouldn’t do for me, so I’d send them on their way. I’m not into boxing as a business. I don’t need boxing financially. I’ve got no need to train people if they’re not towing the line. But with Savannah and Hughie, I haven’t got to tell them anything. Savannah goes away, she does her food, she’s dedicated, she’s talented, and she’s a proper athlete. She lives and breathes the sport in and out of the gym. You can’t ask for anything more.
It did dip at one point, my love for boxing. It was in 2015, just after Tyson Fury [his nephew] won the world heavyweight title. I really did look at it and think, ‘Is this boxing really for me?’ I didn’t even want to bother with the sport back then. But you just trudge on, don’t you? I’ve got my son, and I’ve got Savannah now, and so I just keep going. The enjoyment comes. I’m one of these, I can take the rough with the smooth, no problem. But you do lose that love for the sport. As time has gone on, and I’ve been training Hughie constantly, and I’ve got Savannah now, I’ve got that love back again. I’ve got the enthusiasm back.
Seeing Savannah win the [WBO middleweight] world title meant the world to me. To see that young girl, who has all her life been boxing, achieve that was all I need. I’m so happy for Savannah because she’s got a big future. And I will say this: when you do good things for people, goodness spreads. Now Savannah is a world champion, I expect her to go on to unify the belts. She is that good. Look what she’ll then go on to do for women’s boxing. She’ll inspire young girls and probably mentor young girls herself when she’s finished with the sport. All of a sudden, goodness spreads.
Tyson, my first world champion, was always a major talent. He’s always had the tools there. But I’ve not had anything to do with Tyson since he fought [Wladimir] Klitschko [in 2015]. So, basically that’s it. Whatever personal issues there are, they’re out the window. I’m not interested. The main thing is that he’s doing well and he’s showing the world what his capabilities are.
He did the job against [Deontay] Wilder [in February]. Nobody can criticise it. He did what he needed to do and it was a fabulous performance. There’s no point in Deontay Wilder going on about it. He just needs to focus on correcting it. He just needs to get fighting again. He’s a serious threat for anybody and I’m sure he’ll be back and he’ll do good things. He’s going to be around for quite a long time, Wilder. It’s not the end of the world. It’s one loss, brush it off, and move on.
As for Tyson, it’s family, isn’t it? On the night you want him to win and so far he’s winning. He’s good enough to keep winning. The difference is, when you’re training with a fighter it’s more hands-on, it’s more personal. When you step back, and you have nothing to do with them or their career, it becomes just another fight on the telly. You think, I hope this lad does well here. That’s all you can do.
Of all the fighters I’ve ever had, I’ve only ever really been appreciated by my own son and Savannah Marshall. This is why I’m sticking with them. I’ve got to have that back. We’re all human, we all have feelings. When you’re not being appreciated, how can you work like that?
I think it’s marvellous to see Savannah become a world champion. She’s worked so hard for it. She’s listened intently to what I’ve had to say to her throughout the four years we’ve spent together. She was calm in the buildup [to her October fight against Hannah Rankin], she took it in her stride, and she went about her business nice and relaxed. It was perfect. She waited. She found her range. There was no rushing. She found her jab, she got the distance, and then she started picking it up, just as I told her to do. Everything I asked for, she delivered.
She must have had natural power to begin with, going right back to when she was an amateur, but she has certainly developed it as a pro. We’ve got her sitting on her shots and she’s really applying that power now. I said on the day of the fight, ‘Look, she’ll probably stop Hannah Rankin in the mid to late rounds.’ I was told that was a bold statement because Rankin had never been stopped, but I said, ‘Maybe, but Hannah’s never been in with Savannah Marshall.’ You’ve only got to look at her record. She’s got seven knockouts in nine fights. She’s the only woman in all the divisions who can punch and also box.
In terms of how we met, she had signed with Mayweather Promotions, with young Sam Jones doing the deal, and Hughie was sparring Joe Joyce [a Jones fighter] at the time. Sam asked if Savannah could come down and do something in the gym and I said, ‘Yeah, she can do whatever she wants in the gym.’ I think she was only going to come down for a couple of days but then she asked if she could stay a bit longer. I said that was no problem, we got on really well, and she ended up staying for about 10 weeks. She had to get a visa before she could go to America, so she asked if she could train with us until she got that sorted. After about four weeks she got her visa and said, ‘I might as well stay and do my full camp here with you if that’s okay.’
She joined in with the lads, she was training well, she was picking up stuff, and she went out to America 10 days before the fight. After the fight, she rang me from the dressing room, which was very nice because, for me, boxing is all about appreciation. You give to these young people and the respect you get back is what makes it worthwhile. I was touched by it. She was in America, on a Mayweather show, and the first thing she did was make an international call to me. I remember hearing the excitement in her voice when she said, ‘Peter, everything you said worked. I did exactly what you said and it came off.’ We had a bit of a laugh and I said, ‘I’m over the moon for you, Savannah. I wish you all the best over there. Keep in touch and let me know your progress.’ She said she would.
I helped Savannah initially because I saw a young girl in need of help and I’ve got young girls myself. But me and Savannah had nothing to do with each other, boxing-wise. There was no training her for future fights or anything like that on the cards. I was only helping her out while she was in England. I then one day got a phone call from her out of the blue and she told me a few things had happened and she was coming back home. She said she was back tomorrow and asked if she could see me the next day. I said, ‘Yeah. It would be nice to see you.’ So, she comes down and tells me things weren’t the way she wanted them to be out there in America and asked me if I could train her. That’s how it all started.
I’ve got daughters and I know how they are. And I know how hard the sport is. I used to sit at the side of the ring and watch Savannah sparring the boys and I’d be thinking, I hope these don’t hit her hard today. I used to even have a word with them before they started sparring and would tell them, ‘You know you’re sparring a girl, don’t you? Can you try and take something off your shots because I don’t like to see a girl getting hit. It’s not about hurting your opponent.’
I remember once going to a boxing show with my wife and saying to my missus during a women’s fight, ‘Can you imagine our Sissy [ his daughter] getting hit in the face like that?’ That has always stuck in my mind. Fast forward to today and I’ve got Savannah Marshall. I just felt a duty of care when it came to sparring and stuff. But going on from that, the way she has come on, she now has proper open spars and there’s no pulling punches or anything. That shows how well she has developed. She can spar anybody from 65 kilos to 80 kilos and is comfortable with them all. I’m also much more comfortable watching her. I’m not in the least bit concerned anymore.