Claressa Shields’ Fight of the Year contender highlights banner year for women’s boxing

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Claressa Shields (R) beats Savannah Marshall (L) during the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO Middleweight title fight between Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall in Shields vs #39 fight night; s only boxing ticket in the UK at The O2 Arena on October 15, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Claressa Shields beats Savannah Marshall in their fight for the undisputed middleweight title on Saturday in London. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

In the Chinese calendar, 2022 is the year of the tiger. In boxing, it’s the year of the woman.

Female boxers have broken the glass ceiling in an impressive way in 2022, showing men how the sport should be played. On Saturday, Claressa Shields won an undisputed championship in a stunning third weight divisionscored a unanimous decision over Savannah Marshall at the O2 Arena, London to become a four-belt middleweight champion.

Shields’ victory over Marshall was a contender for Fight of the Year taking place in the main event, with both fighters maintaining a blistering pace from start to finish. Shields left with the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO belts, as well as the WBC’s glittering belt, designed in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

An outstanding super featherweight fight for the IBF, WBC and WBO titles followed Alycia Baumgardner won in a superb fight against previously undefeated Mikaela Mayer.

This was a women only ticket which was the first in the boxing mad UK and sold out the O2 arena and received exceptional media coverage.

And Saturday’s show followed the success of April’s undisputed lightweight women’s title fight, which Katie Taylor won against Amanda Serrano in a packed Madison Square Garden in New York.

Under the leadership of Shields, the best women in the world are actively looking for each other and arranging big fights. The level of talent among women boxers has never been higher and with fighters like Shields, Marshall, Baumgardner, Mayer, Taylor, Serrano, Seniesa Estrada and Jessica McCaskill among others, it will only attract more talent to the sport.

Good things are coming for women’s boxing, and it’s about time boxing promoters and TV networks started investing more of their budgets in women’s boxing.

Shields has been a star almost since the day she turned pro in 2016, after winning gold medals at the 2012 Olympics in London and then repeating at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But she wasn’t universally loved or accepted by fans. She is extraordinarily confident and not afraid to say it. If you call yourself “GWOAT” as early in her career as Shields did, you’ll not only end up with a target on your back, you’ll also have a section of the fanbase cheering against you.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Claressa Shields (L) and Savannah Marshall (R) pose after their Undisputed Middleweight Championship bout at 02 Arena on October 15, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Robinson/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall put on an entertaining fight to a sold out crowd at the 02 Arena. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

She’s not a power puncher – Saturday’s tough win over Marshall increased her record to 13-0 with just two knockouts – but she knows how to fight and she has every punch in her arsenal. She doesn’t get hit very often, but she proved she has a great chin against the power-punching marshal.

However, there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the top weights who seems capable of challenging Shields unless Marshall is able to fix a few issues and pull it off.

But look at Shields’ record and it’s remarkable what she’s done. She debuted on November 19, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against another female debutant, Franchon Crews-Dezurn. Shields won that by shutout, but Crews-Dezurn is now the undisputed super middleweight champion.

She fought Hanna Gabriels, who now holds the WBC women’s heavyweight title. Marie-Eve Dicare, another Shields victim, holds the IBF super welterweight belt. She had also beaten Hannah Rankin, who lost her WBA super welterweight title last month.

It sets a standard that may not be touched for decades. And at 27, she has years ahead of her.

In addition, she tries to compete in mixed martial arts at a high level. She’s not a big MMA fighter yet, far from it. But the mere fact that she’s in a significant promotion and trying to fight the best MMA fighters says a lot about her character and her eagerness to prove herself as the best.

The women’s game shines while the men bicker

We are blessed to have so many great fighters and the divisions will only deepen as the influx of talent continues. And while it’s like someone scratching their fingernails across a chalkboard and talking about whether Terence Crawford will fight Errol Spence or Gervonta Davis against Ryan Garcia for eight straight hours, women are signing up for unification fights and calling out the best in theirs Divisions out regularly.

Boxing is a business and business must be done. But in men’s boxing, there’s far too much talk about who’s selling more tickets, who’s selling more pay-per-view, and who’s more popular overall. It’s disgusting to hear, and it’s also an excuse to skip fights that the public wants to see.

A lot of great things happen in men’s boxing. The talent level is high and there are many charismatic fighters with great stories throughout the sport. But the fact that making the biggest fights is so hard makes it difficult to be a fan.

There are no such problems in women’s football. Mayer and Baumgardner quickly agreed on a fight and spent most of the last two months screwing up the show. And in the ring, when asked about a rematch, Baumgardner said no because she wanted to try and become the undisputed champion.

When asked if she would give Marshall a rematch, Shields replied that her colleagues on the men’s side should write it down on an index card and pull it out to use after the fight. Shields said if fans want to see it, she’s ready for a rematch.

That’s how it should be and that’s why 2022 is clearly the year of the woman in boxing.

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