Marshall involved with boxing in Pictou County again
For Norma Marshall the saying “home is where the heart is” doesn’t just apply to her direct family members; it also applies to the Albion Boxing Club.
© CHRISTOPHER CAMERON - THE NEWS
Norma Marshall poses next to the ring at the Albion Amateur Boxing Club in Trenton earlier this week
TRENTON – For Norma Marshall the saying “home is where the heart is” doesn’t just apply to her direct family members; it also applies to the Albion Boxing Club.
The 22-year-old was a member of the club from the time she was nine until she moved to Halifax for a few years when she was 18. Now living in Pictou County again, Marshall has returned to the club she calls home. She said that over the years she hasn’t been the only one to return to the club in one way or another because everyone feels comfortable there.
“Over the years there has been a huge change in faces of coaches and kids,” she said. “It’s a good thing, you grow up and leave, but the sport and club are always in your blood. I know I left to go to school in Halifax, which is when I stepped away from the sport for a bit. I started going to the club in the city, but it just wasn’t the same. It’s not family.
“When I moved home I popped in a few times and am now back in the club. You always seem to come back.”
Marshall got her start in boxing at nine-years-old. Her step-dad, Dave Cook, was involved in the club and was the head referee with Boxing Nova Scotia at the time. She also had three sisters that went to the club to either compete or work out.
“I was interested because I always watched my sister at the home cards or Dave was involved as a referee,” said Marshall. “I was a pudgy kid growing up so I wanted to go work out and get healthy. I hadn’t been there long and my step-dad put my mouth guard in to spar. I got in the ring with one of the guys and loved it right away.”
Starting at a young age, it wasn’t until she was 13 years old that she had her first fight. At a home card, she boxed a girl from the Annapolis Valley in an exhibition match. Although with exhibition matches there is not official score, it was marked 5-3 in favour of Marshall.
“I felt a lot of nerves in that first fight, just like anytime you do something in front of a lot of friends and family, but it passes when the coaches tell you what to do, to go out there and focus on what you’ve been working on and take it round-by-round,” she said.
It didn’t take her long to start making waves in the amateur boxing world as she attended her first nationals a year later when she was 14. At that time she only had nine fights under her belt, which meant she had to be upgraded because 10 was the minimum required to attend. They made the right decision allowing her to attend as she went on to win gold.
“I fought the last day after watching all the other fights over the few days,” said Marshall. “The fight was called 30 seconds in by the referee (ref stops competition). I used my favourite combination to get her against the ropes and she couldn’t recover. It was a very overwhelming feeling when the fight was called and I won gold because it was my first tournament.”
Over the next three years she went on to win four more gold medals at nationals, as well as a gold at an international tournament in Quebec, where she won both fights. She said every time she won, she wanted to push herself harder and harder to get better.
“I don’t like to lose and have only lost five fights in my career,” said Marshall. “I always pushed harder to get better because I always wanted to win the next time. You also have people watching you like the younger kids at the club, so you want to inspire them to do better and not just settle for what level you’re at.”
She attributes what she achieved in the sport of boxing to her coaches. The coach who tended to be in her corner, more often than not, was Jim Worthen. He was in the corner for all but one of her fights, besides when she attended nationals.
Although he was in the corner she started at the club with her step-dad, Worthen, Peter Alan and Robert Blair before the Sponagle brothers started helping out. Marshall said having the variety of coaches was the reason she was such a strong boxer.
“Every coach had a different way of coaching and looking at things,” she said. “There wasn’t one I didn’t learn something from. The Sponagles came in before my first nationals, which also helped because the coaches all blended together to create the best atmosphere.”
Over all those years and fights she said the most typical questions she got asked by people outside boxing was “do you get hit” or “does it hurt?”
“I always laugh and say that I do,” she said. “When I’m in the ring the adrenaline is pumping so I normally don’t feel it too much. If it hurts I normally don’t feel it until afterward. Again, most don’t understand because they don’t box. Most times for me if I drop my hands and get hit I get a little bit of a buzz feeling. It gets the adrenaline flowing because I want to hit them back.
“It doesn’t bother me that I got hit, but it bothers me that they may have got a point and I have to get it back.”
Another misconception of the sport came because she was a female. She said that it’s controlled with referees, judges and lots of protection. Marshall said she also found it to personally be an empowering sport to her.
“It’s an empowering feeling when you’re in the ring because you’re doing it for yourself,” she said. “If you drop your hands and get hit then it’s on you. You control your fate and how you do. In soccer if you miss the ball, there’s someone behind you to pick it up. It really shows you what you’re made of and how to dig deep when you’re struggling.
She added that she would like to see more women getting involved.
“Parents are afraid to get their kids into it,” she said. “They need to look at what it does for them. They’re getting a full body workout; they’re off the street, learning how to be disciplined and gaining confidence.”
It is that confidence that Marshall said is invaluable. She said that was the biggest thing boxing did for her over her time at the Albion club.
“The moments when I doubted myself Jimmy would always tell me that I could do it, to keep calm and to keep working hard,” she said. “I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a boxer, but that carried forward into my everyday life.”
Now a personal trainer, she said she uses a lot of what she’s learned to pass on to others she is training. It was boxing that helped her set both fitness and general life goals as she grew up.
Having started boxing at such a young age she said she can’t imagine where she’d be without the sport, but knows she definitely wouldn’t be where she is today.
Editor’s note: For the next number of weeks The News will run a story on the Albion Amateur Boxing Club on Saturdays to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary.