Newcastle’s Utility Arena last night witnessed the latest bulldozing of an opponent at the hands of WBO middleweight champion Savannah Marshall, the path now seemingly clear for a big dust-up with amateur rival Claressa Shields in a fight which will crown an undisputed middleweight champion. Shields was sat ringside on Saturday night, witnessing the power of the Hartlepool fighter first-hand as Femke Hermans succumbed to a devastating left-hook in the third round.

The night began with coverage of the undercard on Sky Sports Boxing’s Youtube channel which saw heavyweight Hosea Stewart move to 2-0-0 with a comfortable points victory over experienced journeyman Phil Williams, running out a 40-37 winner on the cards. Another heavyweight in Matty Harris from Coventry also secured his second professional victory in as many fights, stopping Mait Metsis inside the opening round with a devastating right uppercut. County Durham’s Georgia O’Connor also moved to 2-0-0 with a 60-55 points victory against Erica Alvarez over six rounds.

Middlesbrough cruiserweight Michael Webster stopped Erdogan Kadrija inside the third of six scheduled rounds to move to 6-0-0, sending the German to the canvas with a right hand before sealing Kadrija’s fate with a left to the body not long after. Newcastle’s April Hunter returned for the first time since her first professional defeat in October of last year, winning every round against Ester Konecna, showing a more relaxed and settled approach as she continues her development. Hunter’s record now stands at 5-1-0 respectively. Luke Cope also ran out a 39-37 winner over Lee Connolly at super-lightweight to maintain his unbeaten record which now stands at 4-0-0.

The main Sky Sports coverage began at 20:00 UK time, starting with Lancashire middleweight Brad Rea’s eight-round points decision victory over Namibia’s Lukasz Ndafoluma in a solid learning fight for the twenty-four-year-old. ‘Sting Rea’ certainly did not have everything his way, Ndafoluma enjoying success with the right hand early on, picking up a few rounds before he was sent to the canvas at the end of the fourth with a brilliant short left hand from Rea. The use of the jab improved as the fight bore on and Rea moved to 13-0-0 with a hard-fought victory that will no doubt prove beneficial for his development.

Super-middleweight Zak Chelli marked his return to a professional ring for the first time in a year with a sixth-round stoppage of Jack Kilgannon. Chelli could not miss with the right-hand early on in the contest, regularly crashing against the chin of Kilgannon before the pair clashed heads with a minute remaining of the sixth. Blood gushed down the side of the head of Chelli but it did not stop the London man landing a punishing right hand over the top followed by another straight right which left Kilgannon flat on his back before referee Darren Maxwell waved the bout off. It was a good performance and one which Chelli will hope to build on in the coming months as he seeks to remain active at 168lbs.

The chief support of the evening saw Albania’s Florian Marku face-off against Wales’ Chris Jenkins at 147lbs. The latter started the affair well with accurate jabs, making Marku miss with much of what he was throwing, the Albanian struggling to find his range. The bout was flipped on its head in the fourth however when a superbly timed right hand from Marku crashed against the temple of the Welshman whose legs dipped, Jenkins perhaps too brave for his own good as he opted to remain on his feet and fight his way out of trouble. Marku immediately jumped on him however and winged in damaging hooks and uppercuts, sending Jenkins stumbling across the ring before referee Steve Gray jumped in with no choice but to wave the bout off in order to save Jenkins from further damage. Credit to Marku, he found the shot he needed in a fight where things did not appear to be going his way, a great win for the Albanian in only his twelfth professional fight. Marku called out Amir Khan in his post-fight interview with Sky, saying he will ‘break him’ if the pair were to face off, also sending a few verbal spars to the likes of Chris Kongo who was ringside, with Marku accusing the likes of Kongo of ducking him in years gone by.

The main event was soon upon us at the Utility Arena, the Newcastle crowd bellowing out Savannah Marshall’s name as she made her way to the ring just one fight away from a huge showdown with long-time rival Claressa Shields. Marshall looked relaxed from the off, using the first round as an opportunity to feel her way into the contest and take a look at what Hermans was offering. The second saw much more urgency from the Hartlepool fighter whose right hand immediately drew appreciation from the crowd, though Hermans did enjoy some success with right-hands of her own. The third saw the contest end in emphatic fashion however, a solid right uppercut rocking Hermans, followed by another hard right hand. Hermans was ushered into the corner, her back against the ropes, and though she was able to evade the initial straight right from Marshall, she didn’t have much success with the left hook that followed which left her in a sprawl on the canvas. Marshall had provided yet another highlight reel knockout right in front of her nemesis Shields, who was sat ringside.

The post-fight interview saw Marshall declare that there was ‘no one else in the way’ of a mega fight with the American, and that Shields ‘will not be able to handle her power’. The self-proclaimed ‘GWOAT’ was brash in her response, telling Anna Woolhouse of Sky that she’s [Shields] ‘not Femke Hermans or Hannah Rankin’. She added, ‘she [Marshall] will have trouble with me and she definitely won’t knock me out’.

With all hurdles now seemingly out of the way, boxing may get one of its most highly-anticipated fights and one of the biggest female fights of all-time. Great Britain versus America. Marshall versus Shields.

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