Women’s boxing delivered two events in 2022 that had all the ingredients one could ask for. In Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano, and then this past weekend, fight fans could look forward to fights that had proper but not overlong builds, genuine competitive animosity, and then delivery in the ring.
On Saturday, Claressa Shields and Alycia Baumgardner were the victors in a pair of anticipated unification showdowns. Shields was the star of the show, winning in the main event with the best and most demanding performance of her career. Baumgardner may, in the long run, have been the evening’s biggest winner
Let’s start with the main event.
Shields fought a brilliant fight against rival Savannah Marshall, reunifying the middleweight division and successfully defending the lineal crown in the division. Shields used her speed and accuracy, landing in pinpoint combinations to dominate the first half of the fight. Marshall kept coming through the fire, never letting the fight get dull, and then made her play down the stretch.
Marshall was never able to drive home the big left hook she needed upstairs but she landed plenty of hard shots and did good work to the body of Shields. Both women dug deep in the second half and Shields came up with enough to hold her advantage and outfight Marshall when outboxing her wasn’t enough anymore.
Through two Olympic Gold medals and now an impressive dominance of three weight divisions as a pro, Shields has shown the rare ability to come up biggest when the lights are brightest. No, the higher weight classes in women’s boxing don’t have the depth of the men’s classes but Shields won her third in a row against women ranked in the top three of their class by the ratings panels at Ring Magazine and LinealBoxingChampion.com.
The question now is what’s left?
Futures: Shields has bettered her toughest rival to date. The future doesn’t have a next immediate threat. Shields has competed in MMA and will likely continue to split time between combat endeavors. On the boxing side, Shields may find a move to Jr. middleweight the best path to fresh opponents. Natasha Jonas is there with two belts and could have three by the end of November. If welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill defeats Jr. welterweight champion Chantelle Cameron, perhaps Shields and McCaskill could meet in the middle. A rematch with Marshall could also be viable sooner than later. The self-proclaimed GWOAT isn’t done yet but it’s hard to see who out there would be seen as having a realistic chance to beat her anytime soon and that could make it hard to fully capitalize on the event with Marshall.
The same may not be true for the winner one fight prior.
Baumgardner Has Options
Alycia Baumgardner used deft counters, more impressive power punching, and excellent counter timing to defeat Mikaela Mayer, add two more belts to her trophy case, and capture the lineal throne at Jr. lightweight. After an acrimonious build, fans got a hard fought chess match between two skilled battlers.
Mayer wasn’t pleased with the scoring but the judges got it right (well, two of them did). Mayer will want a rematch. Baumgardner can say no right now but the fight will likely be there and pay well. It’s not necessarily the first place Baumgardner should look.
Futures: Baumgardner is now the queen at 130 lbs. That’s a hell of a place to be, sandwiched directly between two of the biggest stars in women’s boxing. The best featherweight in the game is Amanda Serrano. The undisputed lightweight champion is Katie Taylor. Either would be big business for Baumgardner and she’d be live in both scenarios. Taylor-Serrano II is where the biggest money still lies but if they can’t get it done again in the first half of 2022, Baumgardner would be a quality opponent the public could get behind.
Having options is a good thing. Options are there at heavyweight as well.
Wilder is Back
Deontay Wilder landed three punches on Saturday night. Only one mattered, both to the finish and to a public reminded why Wilder is so much fun to watch. Wilder is, easily, the best one-punch knockout artist of this generation. His right hand is one of the best weapons in boxing history. No one should have thought Robert Helenius had much of a shot this weekend, but a one-hitter quitter in the first was impressive against a solid veteran. Wilder is back and there are plenty of better opponents waiting.
Futures: Wilder is probably headed to an in-house PBC showdown with former titlist Andy Ruiz. That’s a good fight while the title picture at heavyweight sorts itself out. Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk should be the priority for the division and hopefully it happens in the first half of 2023. If Fury wins, there is no real reasons for Fury-Wilder IV and Wilder’s title hopes might rely on Fury shedding belts. If Usyk beat Fury, Wilder would likely be the biggest money option for Usyk and give Wilder a chance to win history’s heavyweight title for the first time. One great thing for Wilder: none of his fights is ever boring.
Emanuel Rodriguez’s win over Gary Antonio Russell was impressive in its own right and a win that reminds just how good Naoya Inoue is. Inoue went through Rodriguez like a hot machete through butter. When Inoue moves on from bantamweight, Rodriguez (and a Jason Moloney who won impressively on Saturday as well) could be titlists before 2023 is out…Devin Haney is leagues better than George Kambosos. It was true the first time and bloody true in Saturday’s rematch. Haney looked drawn at the weigh-in and will have to make choices. Does Haney hang around and squeeze down for what would be a lucrative fight with Vasyl Lomachenko or does he turn an eye to the winner of Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall II and see if he can go straight after his second lineal throne at Jr. welterweight? Can Taylor, if he wins, continue to make Jr. welterweight may be just as big a question as what Haney faces…Caleb Plant scoring one of the best knockouts of the year wasn’t on this bingo card.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org