Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall fight preview
Will the ‘GWOAT’ continue her historic reign, or could the ‘Silent Assassin’ find her target?
The biggest grudge match in the history of female boxing finally comes to its finale on Saturday, September 10 at the O2 Arena in London, broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Bitter rivals and former foes Claressa Shields (12-0, 2KO) and Savannah Marshall (12-0, 10KO) will headline an historic all-female fight event this weekend, guaranteed to light up the Greenwich Peninsula.
So much has been reported on these two angry enemies over the last decade as their feud has become increasingly more intense and hostile. Marshall is the only ever opponent to overcome the American when she outpointed a 17-year-old Shields in the amateurs during the 2012 World Championships.
21 at the time, Marshall said that Shields gave her a big hug after she became only the second English boxer to be crowned world amateur champion, because she had qualified for the Olympics with her performance. However, they haven’t shown any kindness to each other since!
But it was Shields who went on to scoop up an Olympic gold medal that same year, whereas Marshall didn’t get past the quarter-final stage despite being the hot favourite in London 2012.
This epic showdown at a sold-out O2 Arena, a venue reserved for only the biggest boxing nights, is finally here and it’s been billed as a 50-50 grudge match for good reason. But is it completely even? Or is one of these fine female fighters the slight favourite to win? Let’s explore shall we…
Claressa ‘T-Rex’ Shields is a double Olympic and World champion. The incredible talent won the Olympics and Worlds at middleweight back-to-back during 2012-2016, so she reached the pinnacle of the sport.
Marshall’s medal haul isn’t quite as impressive, but it is spectacular in its own right. After defeating Shields when winning the Worlds in 2012, her stock was the highest it could be, but her subsequent performance in the London 2012 Games saw that diminish somewhat. She claimed gold in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealths, but the competition is obviously thinner than the Olympics.
After Marshall won the Worlds, she was tipped to go on to greatness, but she didn’t quite live up to those expectations, whereas Shields kicked on and never lost a single bout since to achieve the top accolades available.
Shields’ major gold medals and 64-1 amateur record convincingly trumps Marshall’s honours and 61-16 slate.
During their renowned amateur fight, it was Shields advancing forwards, piling on the pressure while Marshall mostly went on the backfoot, moving laterally and staying out of range with her fleeting footwork, using her longer reach and height to full advantage to win 14-8 on points.
In the pros, Shields has once again completed the set and scooped up title after title and broke record after record.
She won an American title in her second pro bout, then became a unified world champion in her fourth fight. This weekend will serve as her 12th championship fight in 13 professional outings, and she comes to the ring, aged 27, as a Triple Unified Champion and two-weight Undisputed Champion, defending her WBC, WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine titles, bidding to become a Triple Undisputed Champion.
31-year-old Marshall’s achievements are again dwarfed by Shields’s, but are still impressive in their own right.
The Hartlepool hard-hitter won a title in her fourth fight, then became world champion in her ninth ring appearance. She won the WBO middleweight bauble against fellow UK fighter Hannah Rankin and has defended the belt three times since.
What’s been the most impressive feat of Marshall’s career so far is her KO count. It’s not something we are used to seeing that often in female boxing, but the County Durham star’s raw power has seen her knockout her last eight opponents in a row!
Shields is arguably the better boxer in this matchup. She is technically brilliant, supremely skilled, and is easily pound for pound top one or two in the world – only Katie Taylor could usurp her for the No.1 spot at this moment.
Her biggest advantage over Marshall will be her superior handspeed. Despite racking up the same number of professional bouts – 12 each – the American also has the upper hand in experience as she enters into her 12th title fight.
She wins her fights convincingly, the results are always wide points decisions where she often wins every single round, but she doesn’t possess power. She does try to aggressively overwhelm her opponents and she really goes for those elusive stoppages, but she doesn’t quite have the strength to see it through.
Marshall is also extremely skilled but in more of a unconventional way. She’s tricky and awkward, Peter Fury has passed on that winning ‘Fury’ style. The power has only been awakened in the pros, and Peter Fury has really honed in on the effective attribute to utilise it to its fullest. She leaves her hands down low, varies her shots nicely, and unleashes her frightful power at the right time to devastating effect.
Marshall doesn’t always necessarily sit down on her shots, but it’s her rhythm and side to side movement that often generates the power to knock her opponents down and out.
Shields is defensively sound, she’s very hard to nail cleanly, but she can be caught, as Hanna Gabriels proved in the first round of their 2018 fight. The Costa Rican landed a backhand uppercut followed by a left hook that grazed the head of Shields, knocking her down for the first and only time ever in her career. She wasn’t hurt, but then not really off-balance either, so it was a legitimate knockdown, but she got straight back up again.
Against other opponents, you can get away with this, but against Marshall, she will not be able to. If she gets caught by Marshall, then it could change the course of the fight for her. However, Shields is very good at making her opponents miss then making them pay.
Marshall clearly has the upper hand in strength and power. Shields has likely never felt power like Marshall’s before and there’s a chance that experience could change her gameplan when in there. Feeling such power can cause some fighters to withdraw within themselves and even go a bit a gun-shy, so it will be interesting to see Shields’ reaction to the first power punch she absorbs.
Shields is a masterful boxer, a great counter-puncher, sometimes looking like the female version of Floyd.
It’s the age-old ‘Boxer’ vs ‘Puncher’ matchup; plus, America vs England is always a big occasion.
Shields is tipped by many to win on points and Marshall’s method of victory is widely expected to be by stoppage.
Shields will most likely look to be slick, defensive and to land her quick counters, whereas Marshall will almost certainly deploy her higher power by landing those awkward shots on any part of the target in front of her, which could be arms, shoulders, body, just anything she can.
Despite her lowly KO count, Shields is aggressive and likes to pile on the pressure in fights, which Marshall will relish and you can guarantee there’ll be a firefight at times when the pair just square off at each other, but it remains to be seen just who will emerge more effective from those exhilarating exchanges.
Shields as good a boxer as you will ever find, but Marshall can box too. So this pair are going to produce one of the closest, most exciting female fights of all-time.
The odds couldn’t be any closer with Shields at 19/20 with Betway, while home fighter Marshall is 10/11, and the odds for a draw are as low as you will ever find them at 11/1.
Those betting odds literally tell the whole story of this fight – it couldn’t be any harder to call!
The fans are seemingly split down the middle, with many backing the boxer to outbox and win on points, whereas the rest are going for the power of Marshall to produce a stoppage.
I mostly back the boxer over the puncher, especially one as good as Shields, who can get into a rhythm to completely outclass and overwhelm her opponents.
For this fight, as a Brit, I’m hoping to see another impressive Marshall knockout, which is clearly going to be her best chance of winning; however, I’m struggling to see past a Shields points victory.
I really believe that Marshall can go for hell for leather and rain down punches on Shields from all angles, landing on arms, shoulders, body… just wherever she can to bruise her opponent and demonstrate her power. I’m sure she can land something substantial at some point in this fight to cause damage and put Shields in a world of trouble she’s never really experienced before.
However, those 10 two-minute rounds just fly by, so for Shields, 20 minutes is not a long time to have to get through to box clever and rack up the rounds.
This is what makes this fight so good; there’s history, a longstanding, bitter 10-year feud, a genuine dislike between them, and picking a winner will see you swaying back and forth right up until that first bell tolls.
So, right now, I’m going to remain loyal and go for a Savannah Marshall knockout in the late rounds. If Marshall can land her power to hurt Shields early, it could really change the landscape of the fight, but if it reaches the later stages and Marshall is down on points, then she will be forced to go out and give it everything she’s got and I’ve seen what happens when powerful punchers unload the kitchen sink; just one has to get through and it’s game over.
The real winner will be female boxing. I sincerely hope this historic sports event will be watched by millions of young females across the world who will feel inspired to take up a sport, not just boxing but any activity, or even just to feel motivated to find an achievement to strive towards.