American extends unbeaten run with brutal and brilliant display against brave Briton at a packed out O2 on big night for women’s boxing
They did not disappoint. It was billed as the fight of their lives, a rivalry spanning a decade, and a chance to settle who was really the greatest at middleweight. The answer was clear, so clear, after 10 rounds.
It was an unanimous decision for Claressa Shields – 96-94, 97-93 twice – who calls herself “The GWOAT” (“Greatest Woman Of All Time”) and the 27-year-old from Flint, Michigan produced a masterclass to outpoint her great rival Britain’s Savannah Marshall in a fight long overdue.
This was a huge night for women’s boxing, and for Shields, one of life’s great survivors and an inspiring figure.
The curtain rose for the long-standing rivals to deliver on a night of history underlining and highlighting the growth and interest in women’s boxing at the 02 Arena. Delayed five weeks due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the venue was sold out. But it was Shields who showed her levels or, as one of her mentors Floyd Mayweather Jnr would have told her, “skills to pay the bills”. And some.
The protagonists were straight into action. The American won the opening three rounds handily, standing her ground with the heavy-punching Marshall – 10 knockouts in her previous 10 victories – and showing better timing than her foe from Hartlepool. Shields, the two-time Olympic gold medallist, holder of the WBC/WBA/IBF/Ring Magazine middleweight titles, won the early exchanges against the WBO title holder Marshall. However, Shields, with no fewer than 12 titles in three weight divisions, had something to prove.
Both undefeated in 12 fights coming into this, Marshall is the only boxer to have beaten Shields, on her way to winning the world amateur title in China in 2012.
Shields’ promoter had likened the fight to “Ali vs Foreman”, the most-watched fight of all time between heavyweights Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974. Others had called it a modern day “Leonard vs Hearns”, pitching the speed and skill of the great Sugar Ray Leonard against the finishing power of Thomas Hearns, but this contest was much more nuanced than that.
Shields was clearly ahead after the first third of the contest, Marshall’s face begin to show the ravages of the battle. Even trapped on the ropes, Shields countered cleverly against the malevolence which the British fighter attempted to bring. Yet it was in vain, as she was caught time and again by the American’s counter-hooks.
Marshall had labelled Shields “pillow fists” in the past, but heavy shots landed from Shields and it began to register on Marshall’s reddening face. The longer the fight went on, the more it became clear that Shields is a master of the ring, taking Marshall beyond seven rounds for the first time in her career. Though defeated the Briton will return.
Earlier, the vicious rivalry between Americans Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner in the build-up was settled in the co-feature, WBO/IBF/Ring Magazine champion Mayer losing her belts to WBC holder Baumgardner in a junior lightweight title unification fight which ended in a split decision.
Baumgardner used her speed and elusiveness, and although the result was received as controversial, with Mayer clearly crestfallen by the judges’ scores, it was an elite fight, brilliantly executed by both.
It was Baumgardner’s power punches which caught the eyes of the judges. After the 10 rounds, Baumgardner handed Mayer her first career defeat in her 18th fight. The 28-year-old almost doubled up on Mayer’s punch totals to win 96-95, 96-95 on two of the judges’ cards. Mayer, angered by the scores, was up 97-93 on the third judge’s card.
There were 11 women’s fights on the card last night and victories for several British prospects.
Olympic champion Lauren Price beat Hungary’s Timea Belik by fourth-round stoppage. A middleweight gold medallist in Tokyo, Price is now competing two divisions below at welterweight.
Featherweight Karriss Artingstall, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games, dominated Marina Sakharov, of France, over six rounds to record her second professional victory.
Highly-touted Caroline Dubois, younger sister of WBA regular heavyweight champion Daniel Dubois, outclassed the Bulgarian Milena Koleva.