Claressa Shields became the first ever fighter to become undisputed champion on three separate occasions with a unanimous decision victory over Savannah Marshall on Saturday night.
Shields reminded the boxing world of her pound-for-pound ability with a dominant performance over her long-time rival, starting the bout at a frantic pace as she set about the Brit in the first round. Marshall’s face reddened and, while the Hartlepool fighter made sure to make every round competitive, it was the accuracy of the American which caught the eye of the judges.
Marshall winged in shots of her own and no doubt landed her fair share, but Shields’ counter-punching and sharpness meant she more often than not beat her opponent to the mark and continued to bank the rounds. The Brit came on strong down the final stretch and never once halted in her pursuit of victory, but Shields’ status as an all-time great was cemented with a phenomenal performance in the biggest fight of her career so far.
Upon the conclusion of the ten rounds, all of which were fought at a hellacious pace in one of the standout fights of the year, both fighters raised their arms as they anxiously awaited the decision of the three ringside judges.
Finally, master of ceremonies ‘Big Mo’ received the decision of the officials and everyone inside the O2 Arena awaited the result with bated breath. ’96-94, 97-93 and 97-93, declaring your winner by unanimous decision and the new undisputed women’s middleweight champion of the world…the GWOAT, Claressa Shields’.
The American corner were jubilant, while Marshall bowed her head, acknowledging the deserved win of her arch-nemesis. The pair finally embraced and showed the respect that deep down we all knew was simmering below the surface during an entertaining build-up and Shields thanked Marshall for the role she played in staging one of the biggest events seen not only in female boxing but surely female sport in general. It was an event which saw more huge strides taken towards putting female boxing on the pedestal it is more than deserving of sitting on.
An emotional Shields revealed she struggled to see out of her right eye in the second half of the fight, such was the power of the Brit Marshall, and will now return to the world of MMA where she is contracted to the Professional Fighters League. Marshall meanwhile will presumably enjoy a deserved rest before making the decision regarding the next step for her career.
The chief support saw another grudge match which didn’t quite end with such a respectful tone as Alycia Baumgardner edged Mikaela Mayer with a split-decision after ten close rounds. The conclusion of the ten rounds witnessed Baumgardner crowned as unified super-featherweight champion and brings her one step closer to an undisputed title at 130lbs.
The victor settled into the bout quickly, producing the more eye-catching work in the early rounds, enjoying particular success with winging right-hands which caught Mayer clean. The latter soon began to feel her own way into the contest however as she got behind the jab to push her fellow countrywoman back.
Mayer took her share of rounds but it was Baumgardner who showed the greater accuracy as the final third of the bout approached. Mayer threw a lot but much of her shots landed wide of the mark, while Baumgardner presented a more efficient output as she looked to pick off the 2016 Olympian.
The final bell sounded and brought about a nervous wait for both. A narrow victory for either fighter was justifiable, with both feeling they had done enough to get the nod. That meant one camp would be left feeling hard done by once the decision of the ringside officials was read out, a pill made harder to swallow given the intense rivalry which had simmered during the build-up to the fight.
97-93 Mayer was the first score announced, but was quickly followed by two 96-95 verdicts in favour of Baumgardner who exploded with emotion upon the sounding of the judge’s decision. Mayer looked disgusted and momentarily looked as though she would storm from the ring before thinking better of it, and the pair shared a brief moment of respect while refusing to fully embrace.
Mayer predictably called for a rematch, an idea immediately dismissed by Baumgardner who understandably now looks to become undisputed against Choi Hyun-Mi of South Korea.
Further down the card, welterweight Lauren Price secured her first stoppage as a pro with referee Mark Bates saving Timea Belik from further damage after a punishing four rounds at the hands of the Wales fighter. Top lightweight prospect Caroline Dubois also halted Milena Koleva inside five rounds with a superb performance, topped off by an eye-watering left-hook to the body before further bundles of hooks which left the Bulgarian in a heap on the ropes. Kariss Artingstall completed the 2020 Olympic hat-trick with a dominant, spiteful six-round display against Marina Sakharov at featherweight.
Fellow 126-pounder Ebonie Jones edged past Jasmina Nad, while super-welterweight April Hunter dominated Erica Alvarez over six rounds. Super-flyweights Ginny Fuchs (versus Gemma Ruegg) and Shannon Ryan (versus Buchra El Quaissi) secured victories as their professional development continued, while Georgia O’Connor comfortably overcame Joyce Van Ee at 154lbs.