Savannah Marshall says she now believes she is closer than ever before to a rematch with Claressa Shields, nine years after she became the only boxer to beat Shields as an amateur or a professional.
Marshall, 30, makes the second defense of her WBO middleweight title against Lolita Muzeya, of Zambia, in Newcastle on Saturday night in what could be a final fight before facing Shields next year.
She beat Shields during the 2012 World Amateur Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, on her way to claiming the gold medal. Shields went on to win gold medals at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 and win multiple world titles since turning professional, but the pair have never met since.
But Marshall believes her decision to leave Eddie Hearn and sign for promotional firm BOXXER and Sky Sports has moved the fight a lot closer.
“For me, Sky and BOXXER were the best opportunity,” Marshall said.
“I was always being told the Claressa Shields fight is 18 months away, or it’s not within touching distance, but I signed with Sky and within two weeks they have signed Claressa.
“Now that fight is the closest it has ever been. That just tells me I made the right decision.”
While Shields likes to call herself the best female boxer of all time, Marshall feels she struggles to cope with the idea that Marshall still has bragging rights over her, but she doesn’t believe that Shields copes well with criticism.
“She could have beaten me ten times and if I said she is not the greatest and she would have still gone on the same way,” Marshall said.
“It is just the way she is, we are two very different people. She lets anyone affect her – Joe Bloggs who doesn’t have a profile picture will send her a Tweet and it will upset her day. I would think: ‘I don’t know you so you have no effect on my life’. But it is all building into a massive fight, so I am all for it.”
Sticking with Sky was not a difficult decision for Marshall who was taken on board as part of the Sky Scholarship scheme that give her support ahead of the Rio Olympics.
“I was a Sky Scholar,” she said. “They took on certain athletes for the Olympic cycle up until 2016. Me, Jack Bateson and Jason Quigley, from Ireland, were the three boxers who were chosen. Adam (Smith) was my mentor and I was close to Johnny (Nelson), they used to come to the gym every couple of months.”
Boxing in front of a crowd, let alone one close to her Hartlepool home, will be a big change for Marshall, who won and defended her world title in fights behind closed doors.
“This is lovely, all my friends and family can come, whereas no one was there when I won the world title, no one could come for my first defense,” she said. “This is my appreciation to them, letting them come.
“Having boxed for so many years at amateur tournaments with next to no crowd, boxing behind closed doors felt normal. I wasn’t stressing thinking ‘have my mam and dad got the right seats’, or worrying that people have spent lots of money on hotels. I think I preferred it in a way.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.