If you build it, they will come. 

In the context of women’s boxing, it’s not a reference to ghosts playing out their yesterday’s in an Iowa cornfield. The wide appeal of the women’s game has been inconsistent over the years. There have been individuals who gained acclaim and some pockets of popularity in various parts of the world but the feeling of genuine major fights hasn’t always been there.

Those fights, those events, require a little extra to build. 2022 has delivered them as well as any year in memory. It’s a process that can look simple from the outside. A pair of fighters get hot, keep winning, and the name dropping begins. Fans start to speculate what they would look like head-to-head. Talks get saltier, momentum builds, and contracts are signed.

The main event of Saturday’s outstanding unification double bill at the O2 Arena (ESPN+, 2:30 PM EST) has all the marks of a major fight well built. It even has a built-in storyline from the amateurs. Claressa Shields has one official loss, coming in the amateur. Savannah Marshall got that one nod against Shields in the unpaid ranks and will try to be the first person to do it as a professional.

They’ve talked it up almost as well as the Jr. lightweights in chief support, Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner. No matter what happens in the earlier contest, Shields-Marshall closes the show and it feels like the fight both women’s careers have built toward since the beginning.

Can Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, regain the WBO middleweight belt she never lost in the ring and retain the lineal throne? Can Marshall pick up her biggest win on home turf? It’s skilled boxer versus skilled puncher with everything on the line.   

Let’s get into it. 

Stats and Stakes

Claressa Shields

Age: 27

Current Titles: Lineal/Ring Magazine Middleweight (2019-Present, 1 Defense); WBA/IBF Middleweight (2018-20, 4 Defenses); WBC Middleweight (2018-Present, 2 Defenses); Lineal Jr. Middleweight (2021-Present) 

Previous Titles: WBC/IBF Super Middleweight (2017-18, 1 Defense); WBO Middleweight (2019-20); WBC/WBO Super Welterweight (2020-21, 1 Defense); IBF/WBA Jr. Middleweight (2021); Ring Magazine Jr. Middleweight (2021-22)

Height: 5’8   

Weight: 159 ¼ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Flint, Michigan 

Record: 12-0, 2 KO

Record in Major Title Fights: 9-0, 1 KO 

Last Five Opponents: 91-4-1 (.953)

Notable Outcomes, Ring Rated Foes: Franchon Crews-Dezurn UD4; Tori Nelson UD10; Hanna Gabriels UD10; Christina Hammer UD10; Marie Dicaire UD10; Ema Kozin UD10

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Nikki Adler TKO5; Hannah Rankin UD10; Femke Hermans UD10; Ivana Habazin UD10 


Savannah Marshall

Age: 31

Title: WBO Middleweight (2020-Present, 3 Defenses)

Previous Titles: None

Height: 5’11 ½ 

Weight: 159 ¼ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Hartlepool, County Durham, United Kingdom

Record: 12-0, 10 KO

Press Rankings: #1 (Ring), #2 (BoxRec)

Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 4 KO

Last Five Opponents: 64-25-6 (.705)

Notable Outcomes, Ring Rated Foes: Hannah Rankin TKO7; Lolita Muzeya TKO2; Femke Hermans KO3

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None

The Pick: This should be a fascinating style clash over ten rounds. Looking back at the Shields-Marshall amateur bout, Marshall’s win was anything but clear but there are elements in both their games from that night in 2012 that may carry over a decade later. 

Shields was then and should now be quicker. Shields had success then at mid-range and inside, able to flurry in close and score points. Shields was able to land the right hand with snap off the jab but, tellingly, Marshall got in several nice left hands. As matured prizefighters, Marshall’s left hand has become a real weapon to the head and body. Marshall has real power and she lets big shots go effortlessly. If Marshall can chip away, there is a chance for a dazzling finish as the rounds pass by.

Shields hasn’t been a big puncher as a professional but she’s also faced a tougher level of competition since her debut. Marshall has seriously elevated her competition since winning her first title, and against common opponents (Rankin, Hermans) has ended matters with an authority Shields doesn’t employ.

What Shields does employ is an excellent sense of distance and deft timing with her offensive selection. Shields knows how to use her punches to keep an opponent from getting set and counters as well as anyone in the women’s ranks. Marshall has become an effective downhill puncher and Shields will have to be alert all night as Marshall uncorks the left. Shields may have to use some clinches along the way to control exchanges.

Shields was the more accomplished amateur. She is the more accomplished professional. Until someone decisively defeats her, there’s just no reason to pick against her. Marshall may have the best chance of anyone yet but the smart pick remains Shields by decision.          

Additional Weekend Picks

Devin Haney Dec. George Kambosos

Deontay Wilder KO Robert Helenius

Caleb Plant Dec. Anthony Dirrell

Gary Antonio Russell Dec. Emanuel Rodriguez

Alycia Baumgardner Dec. Mikaela Mayer

Rold Picks 2022: 43-9

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com