Saturday night is set to be another historic moment during what has been a memorable year for women’s boxing.
Already we have seen some tremendous fights. Earlier this year, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano headlined Madison Square Garden in what was a thrilling contest and now at the O2 Arena this weekend there will be two world title fights between four of the top women fighters out there right now.
First up will be Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner’s clash for the WBC, IBF and WBO women’s super featherweight titles before Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall meet for the undisputed women’s middleweight title in a fight which has captured the imagination of fans across the world.
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There is a genuine hatred between these two women and it adds an extra bit of spice to what should be an entertaining fight. As a boxing purist, I’ve always thought the bad blood which accompanies any fight is secondary, and while this fight doesn’t need it with both Shields and Marshall being at the top of their game, it certainly adds another layer of tension.
In the build-up to this undisputed women’s middleweight clash, some have been quick to jump to a battle between Shields’ ability as a boxer and whether she can withstand a power puncher like Marshall. However, Marshall is also a very good boxer who often gets her knockouts by being precise, accurate and spiteful.
The WBO women’s middleweight champion is an aggressive front foot fighter whose natural style is to box, but always be on the front foot and a lot of credit for this development has to be given to her coach Peter Fury.
There is no doubt that Fury has brought the best out of Savannah Marshall, not just technically and physically, but also emotionally after bringing a real sense of self belief back to Marshall following a disappointing Olympic Games in 2016. I can remember speaking to Fury a while back about how hard Marshall punches and he said it was ridiculous, and it shows in her 12-0 record with 10 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
On the flipside, Claressa Shields may not have a record full of stoppage wins (12-0, 2 KOs), but the American is still a very good boxer who moves her head side-to-side really well and fights at a good pace. She also has extra added motivation in the form of the loss to Marshall during their days as amateurs.
Shields will be eager to hear that first bell with the aim of proving her self-proclaimed "GWOAT" status and then it will come down to who can implement their game plan the best.
The battle for the centre of the ring will be interesting and important. Both Shields and Marshall’s best work comes from the front foot. Shields may not be the biggest puncher, but she fights at a high pace and she will want to be doing that on the front foot, it’s easier to get that momentum when stepping forward.
For Marshall, the centre of the ring is vital in order to be in the best position to throw her destructive right hands and left hooks. If she does manage to gain control of the centre of the ring, Marshall could also afford to step back in an attempt to get Shields to walk onto shots.
When it comes to making the all-important prediction for the fight, I’m leaning towards a Savannah Marshall win. I believe she’s a bit more rounded and has that destructive knockout power that’s rarely seen in women’s boxing, and if she lands a powerful right hand on Shields, it will force the American to be selective with her shots in order to avoid a potential knockout loss.
That’s why I feel this undisputed title fight will go the full distance and Marshall will be crowned victorious on the judges’ scorecards.