In a way, Saturday’s ticket at the O2 Arena in London, England is a celebration of the growth of women’s football. The 10-fight map is women-only, including two significant unification bouts at the top.
The play-by-play broadcaster on the ESPN+ stream is a woman, the talented Crystina Poncher.
However, it would be wrong to simply refer to this card as an important boxing card for women. It would be better marked as a major boxing card, period.
The main event between Claressa Shields, the IBF-WBA-WBC middleweight champion, and Savannah Marshall, the WBO champion, is as good as it gets. It’s the women’s version of the 1981 classic between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard: two elite, undefeated, high-profile athletes at the peak of their form battling for dominance in their division. Marshall is a -110 favorite at BetMGM while Shields is at +100.
Since the beginning of her professional career, Shields has called herself the GWOAT – Greatest Woman of All Time – and not without reason. She won two Olympic gold medals, the only American to ever do so. She also became the undisputed super welterweight and middleweight champion (Marshall now has the WBO belt) and was the unified super middleweight champion.
She is 12-0 as a pro and nine of her fights have been for a world title. As an amateur, she not only won two Olympic gold medals, but also went 64-1.
While no fair and independent observer is yet ready to finally crown her the women’s GOAT, she is undoubtedly a talking point.
But that in the loss column of their amateur record? Yes, it was for Marshall. At the 2012 AIBA World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, Marshall defeated a 17-year-old Shields 14-8 in the second round en route to the world title.
However, they didn’t get a chance to compete again at the London Olympics that year because Marshall was upset by Marina Volnova in the second round. None of them forgot.
“I’m a Claressa Shields fan,” Marshall said. “What she has done for the sport is amazing. She’s a pioneer of the sport, but in reality she doesn’t beat me. She didn’t perform when we fought the first time and she won’t do it again [Saturday]. It is and it kills her. It burns her inside.
“I knocked out people you did 10 laps with. I’m not just going to hit you. I will hurt you and outwit you. That’s all you need to know. I’m a better fighter. I’ll have all of their world titles on [Saturday].”
Shields is as confident as ever, and with good reason considering she’s only known one win save for that one fight with Marshall. But Shields rolled through their opposition without much sweat and believes she will do the same on Saturday.
She’s particularly motivated for the fight because she’s heard Marshall talk so much.
“I don’t hate anyone, but I have a huge dislike for her,” Shields said of Marshall. “My grandma told me not to use the word hate, so I don’t use it, but I don’t like her and she’s one of my biggest haters.”
However, there’s no question that Marshall will be the biggest puncher Shields has ever faced. Shields herself is not a knockout artist. She is 12-0 with two KOs as a pro and 64-1 with five KOs as an amateur.
Marshall is 12-0 with 10 KOs as a pro, though she had no knockouts going 61-16 in the amateurs. Their coach, Peter Fury, doesn’t care about the amateurs. He marvels at the power she has developed as a professional.
“She has devastating power in both hands,” Fury, the uncle and former trainer of straight heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, told Sky Sports. “By far [she is] history’s hardest puncher going back and forth.
“I have someone who is 6ft tall who can do different weights with ease, which is a gift in itself, who is as physically strong as some guys, with weights, cardio. She is a gifted athlete. The best of Savannah will be too much for anyone.”
That makes this fight exciting. For one of her previous opponents to beat her, Shields would have had to have a night off, and her opponent would have had to have the best night of her life.
That is not the case with this one. Shields is capable of defeating Marshall at his best, but Marshall is also capable of defeating Shields at his best.
“They make it look like she’s a big knockout puncher and she’s the only blemish on my record as an amateur and she has the recipe to beat me,” Shields said. “My job is to show everyone in the world that she doesn’t and that I’m the best in three different weight classes for a reason. If she was really sovereign, she would be champion in three different weight classes and not me.
“She’s a slow fighter and that’s going to hurt her. Also, she is big but doesn’t know how to fight big. All that inside stuff isn’t going to work against me.”