Headlining the O2 Arena in London in a junior welterweight title unification bout against Mary McGee this Saturday is a position WBC champion Chantelle Cameron never thought she would be in.

“I never even imagined boxing on TV,” she laughs. “Quite honestly, I never imagined it, never thought it would happen, and here I am as the WBC world titleholder, boxing at the O2 for a unification fight. It still doesn't feel real. Sometimes I even think to myself, what is going on?”

What’s going on is that the 30-year-old from Northampton is two wins away from getting all the belts at 140 pounds, with a victory over IBF champion McGee setting herself up to face the winner of the November 19th bout between Kali Reis and Jessica Camara, which will have Reis’ WBA and IBO titles, as well as the vacant WBO crown on the line.

So by early 2022, it is conceivable that Cameron could have a lot of belts for her trophy case.

“I'm coming to take over,” she said, and that sentence comes out almost matter-of-factly, not with a cocky energy or anything of the sort. Cameron knows she can fight, and the world is getting on board with that reality as well, with the Brit sitting at the number eight spot on The Ring’s pound-for-pound list, while also fighting to become the magazine’s first recipient of the 140-pound women’s belt this weekend.

Not bad for the former amateur kickboxer who pondered a move to mixed martial arts when boxing didn’t seem to be the most viable way to make a living and get the platform someone of her skill level deserved.

“When I've had a bit of down parts in boxing where things didn't really go my way and I questioned boxing, I thought, do I have a go at MMA, because I've done the Thai boxing, I've done the kickboxing, and I thought, why not have a go? But for me, I've got to focus on becoming undisputed champion, a few big fights, and then maybe in the future, I may have an MMA fight, who knows?”

It’s an intriguing possibility, especially with peers like Claressa Shields, Amanda Serrano and Heather Hardy all taking their crack at wearing the four-ounce gloves in MMA. But there’s too much good stuff going on for Cameron right now, not the least of which is jumping into this weekend’s headlining spot when the original main event between Dillian Whyte and Otto Wallin was scrapped. A lot of promoters might have pulled the plug on the show, but Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing are going ahead with one of the biggest women’s fights of 2021, and it’s another reason why the UK is a hotbed of female talent, because promoters are willing to put fighters like Cameron, Savannah Marshall, Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas in high-profile fights while broadcasting them from major venues.

Cameron has another reason.

“It's our tap water,” she laughs. “But I just think we have great coaches, and we've got great promoters now that are pushing the sport and I think especially for women alone, a lot of time and effort is being put in to women's boxing and it's exploding. I think it's down to the promoters - we're fortunate with Sky Boxing, they headlined Savannah Marshall. Eddie Hearn is allowing me to headline. It's down to the promoters taking a gamble with the women. There's gonna be a lot of backlash, but they're taking it for the women and giving us the opportunity.”

That’s all the ladies have ever wanted. But once they get there, they’ve got to deliver, and the aforementioned quartet has done just that. And though this is Cameron’s biggest fight to date and she knows it, she’s got those pre-fight butterflies ready to fly in formation on Saturday night.

“Obviously, I am a bit nervous because it's a big fight and I know I've got a tough opponent, but nerves do you a world of good, so I'm embracing them nerves - it's gonna give me that fire that I need in my belly,” said Cameron, who will be visiting the O2 for the first time when she fights in it. “It's exciting because I'm boxing in the UK again, the fans are loud, and I've not boxed in so long in front of my friends and family, and that's the motivation that's gonna get me this win because I can't wait to have them shouting and cheering me on and it's just gonna give me that edge.”

As low-key as Cameron is outside the ring, not interested in trash talk or social media antics, inside of it she does transform, something in full view of the world in her last fight in May, when she made her U.S. debut in Las Vegas against former world champion Melissa Hernandez. 

“It gave me confidence,” Cameron said. “I always get nervous for fights, but it was a former world champion, a lot of people thought she was gonna beat me, and you gotta respect her because what she did for women's boxing, as well, is incredible. She was a pioneer before Katie Taylor, so obviously I give her credit for that. But when I was in there, it was an easy fight for me, and I was quite shocked at how easy it was. I feel like I could have gone through the gears, and I didn't even go through the gears. So, for me, it was a massive confidence booster to see where I'm at.”

There was a contingent that believed Hernandez was going to upset the young champion, and even those who picked Cameron didn’t think she would stop the veteran in five rounds, shutting her out and dropping her before the end arrived. 

“I don't say much, but when I'm in the ring, that's what I do,” she said. “I just walk through people.”

That’s as edgy as Cameron gets outside the ropes, as she is content to do her talking with her fists when it matters. And yes, the venue is a lot bigger than her favorite place to fight, York Hall, but she’s not letting the moment get to her. This is still a fight.

“Honestly, I could be fighting in a phone box, it doesn't matter to me,” she said. “My mindset is that it doesn't matter where I fight - in a back garden, in a phone box, in Vegas, in the O2 - all I've gotta do is win.”

That’s a lot of poise for someone with just 14 fights (and wins), who realistically isn’t just representing herself this weekend, but all of women’s boxing. 

“I think I just brush things off,” she laughs. “I just love fighting, and when it comes down to it, it's me and my opponent fighting, so I don't put that sort of pressure on my back. It's great that I'm flying the flag for women's boxing, but I'm pushing that aside and I'm not gonna put that on my shoulders because it's my fight. Afterwards, I'll be like, it's great for women's boxing, a lot of women are gonna see it, and it's good that we're getting that platform but, for me, it's more personal.”

It should be, because a win in London opens up a lot more doors, careerwise, for Cameron. Sure, she’s already a world champion and a member of the pound-for-pound club, but with undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor below her and undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill above her, Cameron has almost been the middle child when it comes to the big fights. Add some more belts to her collection and that won’t be the case anymore.

That’s a big deal, but one Cameron isn’t putting much thought into right now.

“I'm not gonna become complacent,” she said. “I think if I look past Mary, that's being complacent and that could be a big downfall for me. So, to me, personally, I'm not looking past her. I know what could happen in the future but it's what's present and that's my focus, and at the moment all I've got on my mind is beating Mary. So, in the future, it could happen, who knows, but I've got to deal with Mary first and the future will unfold itself.”

Jeez, Chantelle, you’re no fun.

“I'm a big bore,” she laughs. “Obviously, I've been shouting out for big fights for a long time and it's the first time I'm getting to face a world champion, because as much as I've been shouting out every world champion, I've not had the fight. But I'm in this position now and I want to grab it with both hands and take what I'm given.”

Not bad for the kid who never even thought she would be fighting on TV.

“I feel like my perseverance has really paid off,” said Cameron. “It just shows you that if you persevere with something, in the end, you're gonna get where you want to be. And I'm just grateful that I've persevered.”