The PressBox

Middleweight champions Claressa Shields (left) and Savannah Marshall.

Everyone likes a grudge match. This is a grudge match.

Yesterday at the Banking Hall, London two undefeated fighters faced off to promote the first female main event that’s expected to sell out the O2 Arena in Greenwich on September 10.

American, double-Olympic and multiple world champion Claressa Shields (12-0, 2 KO’s) faces England’s Savannah Marshall (12-0, 10 KO’s) in a battle for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world.

Their rivalry has festered and built for ten years since Marshall defeated her adversary en route to winning the world amateur championships in 2012 and Shields went on to win successive gold medals in the London and Rio Olympics. Marshall was eliminated early in her home games which has long been a source of ridicule by Shields.

Since turning professional, the American from Flint, Michigan has been nothing short of sensational, defeating all before her and even having a successful sortie in the MMA code. She currently holds the majority of sanctioning belts in the 160lbs (11st, 6lbs) division, plus The Ring magazine championship and, it was fitting that yesterday’s press conference was opposite the Bank of England given the bling on show. Marshall also brought her WBO title to the dais.

The contest will be a classic US v UK confrontation for all the straps and undisputed supremacy. Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing, who will televise the bout in the UK described the contest as ending a “Deep rooted decade of rivalry” and a “landmark moment for women’s boxing and women’s sport”.

This was followed by BOXXER Founder and CEO Ben Shalom, co-promoter of the event, grandly proclaiming it as “the biggest story in women’s sport”. This is undoubted in British women’s boxing as will be the first ever all-female UK boxing card and first to headline at the O2 Arena. The significance of this breakthrough bout for the female code on British shores should not be underestimated.

The war of words between the two boxers which has been largely played out on social media over the last ten years and more recently after their latest victories in the UK reached a hiatus yesterday.

It started fairly civil with Shields saying “It means a lot to be here (in London) and that she felt “lucky” in terms of the opportunity and magnitude of the event. On being asked about her adversary she replied “I don’t hate nobody, but have a huge dislike for her”. In explaining she did admit “She has the recipe to beat me”.

Marshall was up next and responded ” September 10th, I will be the new undisputed middleweight champion of the world”. On her opponent she said “I’m a fan of Claressa Shields, she’s a pioneer for the sport (but) the reality is she won’t beat me”.

The volume and barbs then started ratcheting up as Shield’s threw comments on her substantial accomplishments across the dais “I’ve got five belts over here, you(ve) got one”. She continued “Speed is power, she’s slow as hell….you can’t do nothing that I do”. Marshall responded “I’m gonna hurt you, I’m gonna outbox you”.

Those in attendance were subject to an increasing high pitched, almost ‘catfighting’ across the table as both slung insults about comparative performances. This led to comment on the fight taking place in the UK, as opposed to the US, with Marshall poking fun that Shields couldn’t sell tickets in the US, the American then sarcastically responded “If it was up to her she’d be fighting in her hometown, Newcastle” and added “I’m the GWOAT (Greatest Women of All Time), nobody knows you”.

After a glowing commentary of his fighter by Dmitriy Salita (Shields manager) it was left to Marshall’s trainer Peter Fury to bring some semblance of tranquility and rationale to the proceedings. “Clarissa is a top fighter….this fight is the best women’s fight of all time….the only two in this division on a collision course….it’s gonna be a hell of a fight – it’s a 50/50 fight”. Ben Shalom added, September 10 would be “A historic night for the whole sport”.

It was finally left to both fighters to give their predictions;

Shields “On September 10 you’re gonna see a very exciting fight, I see myself coming out on top (by) knockout in 8,9 or 10”.

Marshall “I win this fight from heart and my boxing brain” and added “See you on September 10 babe !”.

Chief support to this event will be another female grudge match between American’s Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner who face off in a world unification fight in the 130lb division.

The fights will also be shown in the US on ESPN+ and promoted in association with Top Rank Inc. Ones to watch out for no doubt.

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