Claressa Shields shows her grit and greatness against Savannah Marshall, so where next for boxing’s GWOAT? | Boxing News


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Claressa Shields cemented her claim as boxing royalty as she matched technical supremacy with defining, gritty resilience to neutralise the power of Savannah Marshall in their frantic, feud-culminating epic on Saturday night.

‘The girl from Flint, Michigan’ had been the common reminder all week in reply to slurs from Marshall-backing friends and family, Shields alluding to her success in the face of childhood adversity as a source of inevitability that she would not be denied. Denied she was not.

The giddy leap for joy upon being declared winner proved a necessary reflection of the pressure Marshall had applied and the threat she had posed as Shields clenched her jaw and drew on lightning hands to combat the precision power that ushered her into the corner and onto the ropes on multiple occasions.

“I get asked it a lot. I would just tell my younger self ‘keep pushing, it gets better’. I did have some tough times in life where I did want to quit boxing, I did want to give up, I did want to commit suicide. Just to know I continued to stay strong and not let the doubters get to me, and I didn’t let my childhood trauma get to me. I continued to work on myself, I would just tell myself to never give up.”

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Shields admitted she felt Marshall’s power but proved her point as she avenged her amateur defeat to the Brit

It proved the quintessential complete performance from the self-titled GWOAT, who faultless tactics began with a front-foot flurry, evolved into steely back-and-forths and concluded in a showcase of elite conditioning and fight management.

That the pair could afford a friendly embrace post-fight after a spicy and almost-spiteful build-up, while in-keeping with boxing’s foe-turned-friend tendency, spoke to a respect that has always been there but channelled through insults.

Pre-fight chirping had resumed during the bout when Marshall informed Shields “you’re cut”, to which the American responded with a firm right before inviting her rival to “cut me again”. It was a fun summary of how the entire process had gone, Marshall inviting a bite and Shields willingly obliging with the knowledge she had the fists to follow through.

The resume now includes ‘three-time undisputed champion’, with Shields’ manager Mark Taffet projecting further history as a four-time undisputed champion. Accolades aside, it was the spectacle Shields had always envisioned, and the calibre of which her gold-dusted reputation can help manifest stateside and beyond.

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Straight after the their epic contest, Shields praised Marshall, saying ‘it was the hardest fight of my career’

“We needed these two girls to give us the fight they gave tonight, we needed the pace, we needed the 10 rounds, we needed people hanging on the edge of their seats so they could say ‘you know something, I can’t wait to see women fight again’,” said Taffet.

“They didn’t deliver, they over-delivered, anybody who watched that fight is now a fan of women’s boxing. I remember when it happened in MMA and tonight it happened in boxing.”

Sky Sports’ Adam Smith hailed a “no losers” sentiment, while Boxxer CEO Ben Shalom made note of recalling being called ‘crazy’ for ‘not propping up this fight with a heavyweight fight’.

As Marshall stalked Shields in search of a chink, former lightweight champion Jamel Herring took to Twitter to hail an ‘old school heavyweight bop’. Not only was her aggression a problem, but so too that of the head movement and lateral rocking sought to open up a favourable angle.

Where her bruising hands had done the talking in the past, the eating up of lightning bursts spoke to a granite chin and an admirable determination.

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Jonny Nelson and Nicola Adams lavished praise on Shields and Marshall after their stunning clash in London

It was a contest of toughness and IQ, fire and maturity, finesse and force between two of the most gifted operators in the game. Marshall great, Shields greater… the greatest.

A barnstormer came right on cue amid a tumultuous time for boxing, while both the co and main-event applied welcome pressure on the elite across the industry to get in the ring with one another.

Neither shunned the possibility of a rematch, though nobody would begrudge them a fresh storyline after 10 years of ‘who does it better?’ since Marshall’s win in the amateurs.

Victory for Shields opens the door to further landmarks, but realistically how long is the current queue of suitors capable of rivalling the levels shown by Marshall? There is a real danger nobody can live with her.

“I want to continue fighting against the best, I’m only 27, I don’t plan on retiring until about 35 or something,” said Shields. “Whoever the best is, there are a lot of good champions at 154, if there’s any up-and-coming girls at 160 that think they can beat me I guess I’ll fight against them, my mandatories. I just want to make history really.”

Her manager Taffet preceded to hint at going undisputed in the heavyweight division, prompting a perplexed look on the face of Shields. “I ain’t going to 175 for another year or two!” she quickly assured. “Because them girls are big and we’ve got to build some power and muscle for them! I’ve got all the skill in the world, but I’m a logical fighter.”

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Marshall says Shields is the greatest female boxer of all time

Much of the talk in the build-up had looked towards the growth in confidence of Marshall when it came to both life in the ring and life selling a fight in front of the cameras. Shields herself, contrary to one of the most self-assured and proud demeanours in the sport, reflected proudly on her own progression.

“The last time I heard a crowd roar like that was 2012 at the Olympics and that was my gold medal when I actually got scared coming out, I usually walked out with my head down because I was scared to look at the crowd as it made me nervous but I looked up, tried to embrace it in 2012 and it made my heart fall in my stomach, I said I’d never do that again. But here today, 10 years later, I let myself embrace the moment, look around and see everybody,” she said.

As tennis bids farewell to one of sport’s iconic pioneers in the retired Serena Williams, boxing must realise its privilege to flaunt a similarly-generational, inclusion-championing talent and role model in Shields.

Throw the hefty broadcast deals at her, chuck the sponsorship deals her way, make the Shields and Mayweather ‘Michigan Greatness’ documentary.

‘Look what we’ve built’ Marshall pointed out this week after being asked by Shields about her decision not to fight her in 2018. Ceiling – smashed.

The only request, perhaps, being the opportunity to watch two gargantuans of combat sport trade blows for three minutes. It will come.

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