CLAIRE SAMMUT, Malta’s only professional female boxer, is leading the way for women in the sport and sees herself as a ‘guinea pig’ when it comes to introducing new ways to improve. Kurt Aquilina met with Sammut to discuss what all of this means to her…
With a record of four wins and six losses, super-featherweight Claire Sammut aims to climb the rankings and compete for international titles but faces the tough challenge of being the only professional female within the sport in Malta.
The 37-year-old featured in her first bout since the COVID-19 crisis stopped all sport, at the end of July. The fight against Jaime Wallis Bates, from the UK, which she won with a unanimous decision, was one which had long been awaited.
Sammut explained she had planned on focusing more on the sport, but the pandemic was a thorn in her side both physically and mentally.
“I had planned on focusing on boxing but lawfully and for the safety of everyone involved, this was not possible,” Sammut said.
“I tried to stay as active as possible so that when regulations were back in our favour, I would be prepared for the fight.
“But it was also psychological for me as until the last minute, you don’t really know if her (Wallis Bates) flight will operate, of if she’ll test positive for COVID-19 and the fight would have to be cancelled.
“These all went through my head but luckily, once you get inside the ring you forget everything and with the help of my coach and my team, we prepared well and gave our best.”
Following this win, Sammut, who made her debut back in 2016, will be looking to confirm further dates, and is optimistic about her chances.
“I’ve received many calls from abroad. Since there aren’t that many professional female boxers even on the international stage, fighters with experience often get the call for fights or training events,” she explained.
“I hope I can confirm some dates for September as I’m continuously working on improving my record so that all the sacrifices my team and I, and also our families, have made result in a great international record.
“Improving in Malta is quite difficult, considering how small the number of fighters is. Sometimes I get calls from foreign fighters to join them as a sparring partner but other times I must bring a fighter here to Malta out of my pocket.
“Luckily, our gym has garnered a good reputation and people sometimes come to Malta specifically to train with us.”
Because of the lack of competition in Malta, Sammut’s target is set towards winning fights overseas, even if it means being away from the comfort of home.
However, to do this, she will have to add to those four wins and, more importantly, turn her record into a positive one.
“To be honest, my losses all came from fights abroad and there, if you don’t knock out your opponent, you’re 99 per cent bound to see the win being given to the home fighter,” Sammut remarked.
“The only plus in my record right now is that foreign opposition might think I’m a ‘journeywoman’ and that I’m in it for the trip which is something unfortunately some boxers do. My fights have been against undefeated boxers from Germany and Scotland and they were all close.
“Those who understand boxing will know what my record means so to a certain extent, I’m proud of my record. Obviously, if I manage to reach a positive record, I’ll have the opportunity to compete for very good title belts.”
Sammut emphasised that she will not shy away from an opportunity to reach her targets and that she has never had any regrets on any fight as she says they help her realize how similar her situation is to her opponent, especially as a woman.
Added to that, Sammut tends to use these fights as both lessons and to network ahead of future challenges.
“I’ve been invited to an event for 2021 which I’m discussing with my coach,” she said.
“I’m a yes-person and will always bring my A-Game and then on the day, I can be lucky or unlucky, but I’d rather take the risk than miss out on an opportunity.
“It feels like I’m going into the lion’s den but after every fight, especially after watching the footage, I learn and so I’ll never regret any of it.
“Even in the changing rooms after a fight, it serves as networking for me as I’ve formed many connections which if not beneficial for myself, most are useful for my fellow boxers in order to plan future fights or training. I also get to observe other female fighters’ lifestyles and usually I see that their difficulties are similar to mine.”
Asked about what the local community should be looking at, Sammut admitted that despite the challenges of a small country, there is a lot of talent.
However, she conceded that some gyms do not take discipline seriously and this might be cause for harm, especially because “there is a human life which is involved”.
Despite this, Sammut praised the Malta Boxing Association which she said have introduced several improvements and because of this, the sport may have a brighter future.
She also commended the investment in training for judges and referees so that “decisions are taken fairly and in a serious manner”.