Claressa Shields didn’t need a win over Savannah Marshall to consider herself worthy of GWOAT status.
It certainly helped plead her case, as well as collect year-end awards—including BoxingScene.com’s honor as the 2022 Women’s Fighter of the Year.
The unbeaten three-division champion capped the best year of her already stellar pro career by avenging the lone blemish in her boxing lifetime. It wrapped up a 2022 campaign that saw the 27-year-old Flint, Michigan native earn two wins along with the distinction of becoming the sport’s first-ever three-time undisputed champion in the multi-belt era.
Both of her wins took place in the United Kingdom, with a February 5 ten-round shutout of Ema Kozin marking Shields’ first fight outside the U.S. since her second Gold medal haul which came in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The lineal/WBA/WBC/IBF middleweight championship title defense versus Kozin took place in Cardiff, Wales, as part of a two-fight deal leading to a summit meeting with Hartepool’s Marshall.
Shields took care of business in her usual fashion, winning every round on all three scorecards (100-90 across the board). The win ran her record to 12-0 with two knockouts at the time, having posted title victories at super middleweight, middleweight, junior middleweight and now back at the middleweight division that housed the lone fighter to ever hand her a loss.
Marshall edged Shields in the round of 32 during the 2012 World Amateur Championships, going on to claim top honors in the middleweight division. Ironically, Shields benefited from Marshall running the tables as it preserved her place in line for the inaugural year of women’s boxing in the Summer Olympics later that August in London.
Shields would go on to capture the first of her two Olympic Gold medals, the only U.S. boxer to ever do so during international competition. Three months after her brilliant run in Rio, Shields made her pro debut in November 2016 where she outpointed fellow debutante Franchon Crews-Dezurn.
Both currently reign as undisputed champions, with Crews-Dezurn collecting all the chips at super middleweight.
Shields was a unified titlist at that weight by her fourth pro fight. One defense followed before setting her sights on middleweight, which Shields fully unified just nine fights into her pro career and four fights into her stay at the weight. Two subsequent wins at junior middleweight saw the unbeaten pound-for-pound queen become a two-division undisputed champion.
Still, something was missing.
To her credit, Shields forced the issue to eventually land a blockbuster fight with Marshall. Both fighters were 12-0 at the time of their historic meeting, which was delayed from its September 10 date in London due to the sudden passing of Queen Elizabeth II just two days prior. Their undisputed championship was pushed back five weeks, with Shields ultimately prevailing by unanimous decision atop an all-women’s card at The O2 in London.
With the ten-round win, Shields successfully defended her lineal/WBA/WBC/IBF middleweight championship and reclaimed her WBO title. She also removed the decade-long claim of Marshall remaining the only fighter she’d fail to beat as a pro or amateur.
Additionally, the win bolstered Shields’ current claim to the mythical pound-for-pound throne while weakening any argument against her truly serving as the greatest women’s boxer of all time.
Even if that part remains up for debate, Shields (13-0, 2KOs) can at least add one more honor to her collection heading into the new year—the distinction of winning BoxingScene.com’s 2022 Women’s Fighter of the Year award.
The runners-up for BoxingScene.com’s 2022 Women’s Fighter of the Year award are listed below, in alphabetical order.
Alycia Baumgardner: A two-time honorable mention in this category, Baumgardner followed up her 2021 breakout campaign by taking her career to new heights. The hard-hitting junior lightweight champ from the greater Detroit added two wins to run her record to 13-1 (7KOs). The biggest came in a ten-round, majority decision victory over unbeaten Mikaela Mayer in their lineal/WBC/IBF/WBO 130-pound championship on October 15 in London. Baumgardner figures to be no worse than a three-time honoree in 2023, and possibly a leading candidate as she vies for the undisputed crown in her first fight of the new year.
Chantelle Cameron: The unbeaten Brit entered 2022 as the WBC/IBF 140-pound titlist and longed for an undisputed championship clash. Kali Reis was unavailable, vacating her WBA/WBO belts which were at stake in Cameron’s November 5 win over Jessica McCaskill in Abu Dhabi. McCaskill’s undisputed welterweight crown was not at stake as she dropped down in weight, though Cameron still left with all of the junior welterweight hardware and a career-defining win, six months after scoring a ten-round shutout of Victoria Bustos in a May 21 title defense in London.
Natasha Jonas: The 2012 Great Britain Olympian came up short in previous title bids at junior lightweight and lightweight before moving up three weight divisions in 2022. The 38-year-old southpaw proved bigger was better, as she ended the year as the unified WBC/IBF/WBO junior middleweight queen following a second-round, WBO title winning knockout over Chris Namus and ten-round decision victories over reigning titlists Patricia Berghult (15-0, WBC champ at the time) and Marie Eve Dicarie (18-1, IBF champ at the time).
Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano: They are jointly named as there was little separation in their epic April 30 pound-for-pound clash at Madison Square Garden—arguably the best fight of 2022 regardless of gender. Taylor prevailed via split decision to retain her undisputed lightweight championship which she successfully defended in an October 29 shutout win over Argentina’s Karen Elizabeth Carabajal in London. Serrano bounced back—and down, to her natural featherweight frame where she defended her WBC/WBO titles and added the IBF chip in a September 24 ten-round victory over unbeaten titlist Sarah Mahfoud on neutral ground overseas in Manchester, England.
Yokasta Valle: The 30-year-old Costa Rican posted four wins and earned unified title status in two separate weight divisions. No other titleholder—male or female—accomplished either of those feats on the year. Valle made three defenses of her IBF strawweight title, the last of which saw her add the WBO strap following a ten-round shutout of unbeaten Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen on September 8 in her San Jose hometown. The year ended with Valle—a former atomweight titlist—becoming a three-division title claimant following a ten-round, majority decision victory over IBF/WBO junior flyweight champ Evelin Bermudez on November 26 in Carson, California.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox