There is a lot that Ben Shalom still hopes to achieve during his time with Sky Sports and boxing in general.
Getting a fight of this magnitude over the line was most certainly a good feeling for the CEO and founder of Boxxer.
It was all smiles among the network and promotional teams behind the loaded September 10 Sky Sports show from The O2 in London that was formally announced on Tuesday. Shalom proudly gets to present the long-awaited grudge match between Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall.
The opportunity to offer the upcoming undisputed middleweight championship—along with a terrific junior lightweight unification clash between Mikaela Mayer (17-0, 5KOs) and Alycia Baumgardner (12-1, 7KOs)—without the burdensome pay-per-view costs made it that much more satisfying to reveal the news.
“This has to be the biggest story in women’s boxing,” Shalom suggested to the assembled media on hand. “All sports need the greatest rivalries. You see it with [Rafael] Nadal-[Roger] Federer, Max Verstappen-Lewis Hamilton. Now for women’s boxing, we have Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields.”
The fight has been discussed for as long as Flint, Michigan’s Shields (12-0, 2KOs) and Manchester, England’s Marshall (12-0, 10KOs) have been in the pro ranks. Shields is a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and three-division world champion whose incredible legacy nearly never got going, thanks to an upset—and which she regards as controversial—loss to Marshall during the round of 32 in the 2012 World Amateur Championships tournament.
Marshall—21 at the time, while Shields just turned 17—went on to win the World Championship that year and qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Ironically, her success enabled Shields to earn an Olympic berth as well, going on to capture the first of two Gold medals.
Shields ended her storied amateur career following her second Gold medal win in 2016 Rio, finishing with a record of 77-1 before turning pro later that year where she is now a perfect 12-0. Marshall remains the only fighter, pro or amateur, to hang a loss on Shields. It has become a big part of Marshall’s story over the past ten years, while Shields continued to rack up accolades—two Gold medals, two World Amateur Championships, the Pan Am Championships, and unified title reigns in three weight divisions, including undisputed status at middleweight and junior middleweight.
A decision by Shields to pursue the junior middleweight championship freed up the WBO middleweight title, which Marshall claimed in an October 2020 knockout win of Hannah Rankin. Three defenses have followed, all ending inside of three rounds and with the 31-year-old Marshall having stopped her last eight opponents.
Wins by Shields and Marshall two months apart earlier this year set the stage for the bout, which many figured would go straight to Sky Sports Box Office (Pay-Per-View). That belief escalated upon the knowledge that the all-female show—the first ever in the UK—would include the sensational Mayer-Baumgardner grudge match for the lineal and unified WBC/IBF/WBO junior lightweight championship.
Instead came more good news on Tuesday, more so than confirmation of the actual fights.
“It will be available live on Sky Sports at The O2 for everyone. Not on Box Office, as many people thought,” pointed out Shalom, the fast-rising and youngest licensed UK promoter who was just 17 at the start of the Shields-Marshall rivalry. “A huge investment (was made) by Boxxer and Sky into women’s boxing on what will be a huge night for boxing.
“I think we’re going to see a different audience, a bigger audience and an audience that boxing probably hasn’t seen before. It’s all down to these two putting it all on the line. Elite athletes at the top of their game with a story that spans more than ten years.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox