It’s a historic night for women’s boxing in London this Saturday as the sport’s two biggest stars go head to head for the undisputed middleweight championship, live on Sky Sports
By Chris Miller, Writer
Note: TV channels are currently subject to wholescale schedule changes.
Saturday 10 September will be the biggest night in the history of women’s boxing. It’s an all-female card at The O2 Arena in London and around 20,000 fans are expected to pack out the venue, with many more watching on Sky Sports.
Interest in women’s boxing has grown massively over the past decade, as is true for many women’s sports – and this huge event marks a historic night. But the headline bout is as eagerly anticipated as almost any boxing title fight in recent years. The USA’s Claressa Shields and the UK’s Savannah Marshall are going toe-to-toe for the undisputed middleweight championship… OF THE WORLD! We. Just. Can’t Wait.
And there’s, as they say, history between these two prodigiously talented fighters – which is just the way we like it. So let’s look back over their rivalry and ahead to the fight, with a detour via the intriguing undercard too…
What’s the backdrop to this fight?
It began at the world amateur championships in 2012. On her way to claiming the middleweight title, Marshall beat hotly tipped 17-year-old Shields in the second round. Shields (pictured above) then supported Marshall all the way to the victory: not just for her own pride, but because going out to the eventual winner meant that Shields would qualify for the US Olympic team.
Roles were reversed at the London Olympics. Marshall, as world champ, was among the favourites but went out unexpectedly in the quarter-final. It was Shields who claimed the gold – and she followed it up with another in 2016, when Marshall again didn’t live up to her billing.
Is Shields the clear favourite, then?
Shields holds the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBF middleweight titles, and she’s after Marshall’s solitary belt – the WBO, which the Hartlepool-born fighter has held since October 2020 – to complete the set and reign as undisputed champion. So yes, you could certainly say that.
Since turning pro they have similar records: 12 fights, 12 wins. But Shields has world titles at multiple weights and has a serious claim to be the best female boxer ever. In fact she’s only suffered one defeat in her entire boxing career, amateur or pro… that loss to Marshall, 10 years ago.
That’s a long time. She’s over that, right?
Well. You tell us.
“I was on her like a pit bull on a goddamn rabbit. I chased her all over the ring,” she said of the 2012 fight. “I chased her, she’s sweating. Holding, holding, holding. Running, running, running… I put everything on the line to win that fight. The only thing that wasn’t in my favour was the judges, that was it.”
Sounds to us like she’s still letting it get to her, and Marshall didn’t pass up the opportunity to put her own angle on that fight. “It was just another fight to me. There’s nothing really that stands out about that fight. It just so happens I beat this girl in 2012 on my way to becoming world champion. Obviously this was her first ever loss – 10 years on she’s still whingeing.”
Is there any of that mutual respect that boxing opponents often have?
Although Shields says she’s happy to be fighting in the UK, because she thinks the US doesn’t take women’s boxing seriously enough, she prickles at the idea that Marshall is her equal. When asked about her opponent, she said, “I think she’s gotten worse since 2012… Her skill level and everything.” She addressed Marshall directly, saying: “In America you fought on one of the biggest cards, nobody remembers it, nobody. Now she comes to the UK, her home country and she’s a “knock-out queen”? But that’s the privilege of her being the Brit.”
Marshall (who retorted “I’ve always had Claressa’s number” and insisted “I will be undisputed champion of the world… I will finish her”) hasn’t claimed that pseudo-royal title for herself. But what’s not in doubt is that she has stopped 10 of her 12 pro opponents, whereas the same number of Shields’ fights have gone the full distance.
The consensus is that Shields is the boxer and Marshall the puncher, an intriguing clash of styles that should make for terrific entertainment. Shields calls herself the “GWOAT” – Greatest Woman Of All Time. If she wins this fight, that can be in no doubt. If she doesn’t… this is a rivalry that will run and run.
Who’s on the undercard?
Americans Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner face off in the super featherweight division, where the winner will come away with the WBO, WBC, IBO and IBF belts. The undefeated Mayer is the favourite here, but Baumgardner’s last two fights were in England and she may feel more at home.
There are some British names on the card too. Caerphilly fighter Lauren Price won world, Olympic and Commonwealth titles at middleweight but she made her pro debut in June as a welterweight, and that’s the category in which she’ll be facing Hungary’s Timea Belik. Price, who has also won four world kickboxing titles and represented Wales at football, is one of the hottest prospects in boxing – it surely won’t be long before she has a chunky belt of her own.
GB Olympian Caroline Dubois, who made her pro debut in February, is in super-bantamweight action against Bulgaria’s Milena Koleva. There’s a great story lower down the card too: Shannon Ryan, formerly an assistant manager at an O2 retail store, who is now sponsored by O2 and boxing professionally. This will be her third professional fight, as the super-flyweight faces Spain’s Buchra El Quaissi at The O2 Arena.
When is Shields v Marshall on TV?
You can see this massive title fight at 7.30pm on Saturday 10 September on Sky Sports Arena/HD (CH 518/508), Sky Sports Mix/HD (CH 520/510) and Sky Sports Showcase/HD (CH 110/109).
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