The bitter rivals clash for the undisputed crown this Saturday
This weekend, we look likely to see the climax of a rivalry that has been ongoing for 10+ years in female boxing, as IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight world champion Claressa Shields looks to avenge the only loss, amateur and pro, of her boxing career when she faces WBO champion, Savannah Marshall, at the stratosphere of the first all-female boxing card in history.
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This rivalry was born in the amateurs, as in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, Shields and Marshall would fight in the AIBA World Championships, a bout in which Marshall was the victor. Marshall then went on to win the championships. Three months later, both women went on to represent their countries at the Olympics. Shields would win gold, whilst Marshall would lose in her quarter-final bout. Both women remained in the amateurs and would again represent their countries at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was a repeat of London as Marshall would lose in the quarter-finals again and Shields would go on to win gold. Both women turned professional after the 2016 Olympics, Shields's amateur record ended at 64-1, whilst Marshall's would be 61-16.
Shields would turn professional on the undercard of the huge showdown between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward in Las Vegas, as she would defeat Franchon Crews Dezurn by unanimous decision. The first knockout came in Sheils's second bout, as she would halt Szilvia Szabados in four rounds to pick up the NABF middleweight title. Shields would move to super middleweight and pick up the vacant WBC silver title with a unanimous decision win over Sydney LeBlanc. Shields would fight WBC champion Nikki Adler in her next bout, the vacant IBF title was added to the mix as Shields became a two-belt world champion in just her fourth fight as she stopped Adler in five rounds.
Shields successfully defended her belts by unanimous decision against Tori Nelson before opting to move down to middleweight to face Hanna Gabriels for the WBA and vacant IBF title. Shields would survive an early knockdown to bounce back and comprehensively outpoint Gabriels to become a two-weight world champion. Shields would next defend her belts against Hannah Rankin, the WBC would add their vacant belt into the mix for this bout. Shields would defeat Rankin by a shutout points decision to now add the WBC title to her mantle. A successful defence against Femke Hermans set up an undisputed fight with WBO champion, Christina Hammer. Shields would become undisputed champion, as she would hand Hammer the first loss of her career by unanimous decision.
Shields opted to drop down to super welterweight following the Hammer victory, as she would fight Ivana Habazin for both the vacant WBC and WBO titles. Shields would win convincingly on points, even dropping Habazin in round six to become a three-weight world champion. Shields would become an undisputed champion at super welterweight in her next bout, as she would defeat IBF and WBA champion, Marie Eve Dicaire by unanimous decision. Shields would shift back to middleweight for her next bout, as she brought her IBF, WBA and WBC to the UK to fight Ema Kozin. Marshall would be ringside to witness Shields's UK debut, Shields would win by unanimous decision, but Marshall would be unimpressed by Shields's performance and have something to say following the bout.
Like Shields, Marshall also made her pro debut on the undercard of a huge fight night in Las Vegas, as Marshall would defeat Sydney LeBlanc on points on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. Marshall returned to the UK for her second bout and would find a knockout, as she would stop Ester Konecna in two rounds. Marshall also had an early night in her third bout, blasting Alejandra Ayala out in two rounds, Marshall went in search of her first pro title in her fourth bout and would successfully travel to Bulgaria to defeat Yanina Orozco by unanimous decision to win the WBA inter-continental title. Marshall got the knockout streak back on track as she would drop Klaudia Vigh twice on her way to another second-round victory, before going on to stop Borislava Goranova in one round in her next outing.
Daniele Bastieri was the next woman put in front of Marshall and Marshall would bludgeon her way to a dominant fifth-round stoppage. Ashleigh Curry was next for Marshall, but Marshall would finish Curry in destructive fashion in a three-round demolition job. Marshall's time had come to challenge for a world title and it would be against domestic rival, Hannah Rankin for the vacant WBO middleweight title. Marshall would put on a tremendous performance to break Rankin down, ultimately ending in a seventh-round stoppage to crown Marshall a world champion.
Marshall would stop Maria Lindberg within three in the first defence of her belt, before going on to fight Lolita Muzeya next. Prior to the Muzeya fight, Sky and BOXXER had announced their groundbreaking deal, which revealed that both Marshall and Shields would be fighting exclusively on Sky Sports. Shields would not be in attendance for the Marshall vs Muzeya fight but would be on the broadcast via Zoom reacting to the bout. Marshall would knock Muzeya out in two rounds. Marshall would next fight Femke Hermans in Newcastle, two months on from Shields' last bout with Kozin. Shields would be ringside to witness Marshall produce one of the most brutal knockouts in female boxing, as she folded Hermans right at the end of round three with a pinpoint left hook.
Shields would jump in the ring following Marshall's victory, much like the way Marshall did to Shields two months earlier, as the pair traded verbals and the bout seemed extremely likely that it would be next.
The bout was confirmed to be next, sparking much excitement from fans and fellow fighters. Shields and Marshall look to settle their 10+ year rivalry this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London at the top of the first-ever all-female boxing show, which also features the huge unification bout between IBF and WBO super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer and WBC super featherweight champion, Alycia Baumgardner. The card can be watched live this Saturday on Sky Sports and it is certainly one you won't want to miss.