Claressa Shields v Savannah Marshall: Epic offers hope when boxing needs it

Claressa Shields became the undisputed middleweight champion when she defeated longtime rival Savannah Marshall in an epic contest in London on Saturday.

In a month when boxing has been hit with haymakers of its own making, Claressa Shields’ title-exhausting fight against Savannah Marshall offered reason for optimism.

Sports need that boost, especially as the fall continues Conor Benn’s drug test failedand the call of the fight with Chris Eubank Jr.

As UK Anti-Doping investigates Benn’s positive test for the banned substance Clomifene – described by promoters as a “damaging analytical finding of traces of a fertility drug” – boxing is facing many questions.

Is there enough drug testing? Is the British Boxing Board of Control fit to arbiter the sport? Is the sport, after all, telling its biggest payers?

Let’s also not forget the revelations about Daniel Kinahan earlier this year and his connections to boxing.

Kinahan – a popular figure in boxing circles – received worldwide financial penalties US in April for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering. There are no charges against the boxers who worked with him.

The collapse of MTK Global – the promotion company Kinahan co-founded, with which he has said he severed ties in 2017 – and the dispersal of hundreds of fighters raised serious questions about the standard of governance in boxing.

Allegations of corruption and bribery are so deep that the sport could be thrown out of the Olympics. Pro games face similar credibility questions, often on the biggest stage. Jack Catterall was forced out by the BBBofC when he lost to then-undisputed light welterweight champion Josh Taylor in February. launch an investigation In the entirety of a fight, almost everyone scored against them.

But on Saturday, in a sold-out venue, we saw a true statement of why boxing is a sport to be loved and cherished – and why it’s worth fighting for.

“That’s what we want to see more of in boxing.”

In the main event, two elite champions went head to head. Marshall and Shields were undefeated in 12 pro fights.

And there is a fierce rivalry between them, dating back a decade, since Marshall won Shields at amateur level.

Since then, there have been heated exchanges online and in person. Finally, they met again in the ring. And it happened when both women are at their peak.

This is a rare occurrence. This month, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury he has not agreed to the terms over a heavyweight fight, potentially the greatest in British history. In boxing, fighting the best against the best is never a guarantee.

“When you’re putting fights together and you’re in tight fights, fights can go either way. That’s why we need to see more of those types of fights,” Marshall coach Peter Fury said.

The fight marked a career best for Shields who has reached unprecedented heights as a 13-time world champion. Marshall came up short, but proved to be a bench star.

“It was a great fight. Both of them stepped up and fought for their skins, both of them, and both of them tested each other to the max,” Fury said.

“Savannah showed that she had a real fighter’s heart. That’s what we want to see more of in boxing. Get stuck in, fight. Blood and guts, that’s what we want to see. That’s what I’m in boxing for.”

“One of the greatest nights in boxing history”

Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall talk after the fight
Marshall and Shields were undefeated world champions before their fight on Saturday

There were no shocking scorecards, no whispers of doping and ultimately no controversy. The 96-94, 97-93, 97-93 cards were rightly in Shields’ favor.

It had all the makings of a grudge match, but the women didn’t cross the line they so often ignored in their verbal exchanges. When hostilities ended, Shields and Marshall saluted each other’s talents.

All the focus was on the competitors and the exchanges in the ring. It was a great example of what the sport has to offer.

“I’m disappointed that I came up short, but if it’s done something for women’s boxing, if it’s promoted the sport, if young girls and boys want to get in the gym and give it a try, I’m happy for that,” Marshall said in the post-fight press conference.

This is another example of how elite women’s sports not only deserve the spotlight, but can thrive in it.

Promoter Ben Shalom said repeatedly this week that he and his Sky Sports TV partner were mad to be told to even consider a women’s card in a 20,000-seat arena.

“It will truly go down as one of the greatest nights in boxing history for what it means to women’s boxing,” Shalom said.

“I’m still amazed that two women managed to sell out the O2 Arena, because most men don’t do that either,” added Marshall.

As Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano held at Madison Square Garden six months ago, Shields v Marshall showcased boxing at its best at a time when the sport is in need of defenders.

“It was a great night of boxing,” Shields said.

“When people said that women’s boxing didn’t have fans, when they said that women’s boxing didn’t sell out arenas, that no one would watch – today millions of people saw us, we fought in front of 20,000 and we had a great fight. .”

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