Both fighters felt 12 three-minute rounds would have only added to the spectacle at the O2 Arena on Saturday
Claressa Shields yesterday agreed to rematch Savannah Marshall in the United States “if fans demand it” after claiming all the middleweight titles in a blockbuster fight with her British rival. But the fight labelled a “modern-day women’s classic” has re-ignited the debate over longer fights for elite women boxers.
Shields lived up to her self-styled ring sobriquet of the GWOAT (Greatest Woman Of All Time) with the 27-year-old from Flint, Michigan, asserting that she would take a rematch with Marshall in America.
“If that’s what the fans want, then absolutely that’s what we are going to do,” said Shields, who defeated Marshall by unanimous decision at a sold-out O2 Arena in the first all-female bill in UK boxing history, with 11 contests on the card.
“There was a rematch clause if there was a controversial decision but it was unanimous. If that’s what the fans want, a rematch in the USA, then absolutely that’s what we are going to do. It was a special night for women’s boxing and I think it was fight of the year. Savannah is a tough competitor, hard fighter and has endurance – I couldn’t see out of my right eye rounds 6-10 as she hit so hard.”
Shields has been an advocate for three-minute rounds for some time and believes that there needs to be a change.
Two minutes is not enough time
“A lot of fans have said to me that they feel like they’re being cheated out of our fights because they’re two minutes, and they want to see their favourite fighter get knockouts and have enough time to execute,” she said. “Two minutes is not enough time.”
Shields has also argued that if women move to three minute rounds, there “should be equality” with the amount of money their male counterparts are paid to fight.
Hannah Rankin, the two-time light middleweight world champion, who has fought both Shields and Marshall, told Telegraph Sport that it is time for the sanctioning bodies to move to at least 12 rounds of two minutes for championship contests.
“I think it does make sense. At the moment, it’s 10 two-minute rounds for any title, so the length of a bout doesn’t distinguish between the levels the fighters are competing at. We are definitely getting to a point where things need to be looked at, and maybe changed.”
Barry McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion, has made his views clear on three-minute rounds. McGuigan has called it “an insult to women to restrict fights to 10, two-minute rounds”.
“The inference,” says McGuigan, “is that women are not physically capable of doing three minutes. That’s just wrong. The demand and the risk is the same for both sexes. And the reality is women want three-minute rounds, as is the case at the Olympics and amateur world championships.”
In April this year, ahead of her contest with Katie Taylor, at Madison Square Garden, Amanda Serrano called for women to box three-minute rounds. Indeed, Serrano even suggested that the contest with Taylor could be showcased as 12, three minute rounds.
“I think we should continue to make this fight iconic, make changes in this game,” said Serrano at the time. “If Katie Taylor is willing, I’m ready and able to make this an equal fight: 12 rounds, three minutes… This is about equality and we should make the change right now.” Taylor was not interested in doing so.
For the change to come, both the boxing commissions and the sanctioning bodies would need to agree. The World Boxing Council, and its president Mauricio Sulaiman, has been against three-minute rounds for women’s boxing after research suggesting that women are at a greater risk of injury compared to men.
In 2020, a study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that “female athletes appear to sustain more severe concussions than male athletes, due in part to a lower biomechanical threshold tolerance for head impacts.”
The debate will continue. Mikaela Mayer, who lost the WBO, IBF, and The Ring super-featherweight titles to Alicia Baumgardner on Saturday night and his chasing a rematch with her fellow American, believes women “should have three-minute rounds and is the next step.
The talent pool and the level of skill are up there enough now that women should be granted three-minute rounds. It will separate the good from the great and allow us to showcase more of our skills.” Saturday night, nonetheless, was a watershed moment for women’s boxing in the UK, and globally.