The Weekender

Boxing queens Claressa Shields (left) and Savannah Marshall.
Photo courtesy: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

We are living in historical times no doubt.

The decision by British sporting bodies to postpone most events this weekend as a mark of respect for Thursday’s sad passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was in our view the right call, but for many understandably difficult to palate. No more was this felt, than in boxing.

Earlier Thursday, a hotel ballroom in London’s docklands hosted a packed final press conference for what would today be the first all-female world title boxing card to be held in the UK, and indeed worldwide. The event was (and still is) huge.

The fighters and media attendees were from all over the world and would have arrived at no small expense, and the fighters in particular were at a peak of readiness for the contests ahead. They are the main losers from the decision of this weekend.

British promotional company BOXXER led by founder and CEO Ben Shalom are the main promoter and had to break the news to all involved late yesterday afternoon after weigh-ins were delayed in the uncertainty. This would be the exact worst time for the fighters involved and delivering the news would not have been an easy task. The financial implications would also have been felt by all involved.

The decision of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) to postpone tournaments this weekend was made above the promoters, and BOXXER accepted this by issuing a statement that informed all but also reflected the feelings of the nation. A new provisional date of Saturday, 15 October 2022 has been stated at the same venue, London’s O2 Arena.

History was the backdrop to the promotion titled ‘Legacy’. The first all-female card, to be held before an anticipated 20,000 sold-out arena, and to be broadcast to a worldwide audience. For too long females have been tacked onto or hidden within male cards, today was to be their time.

The BOXXER, Sky Sports, Top Rank and Salita promoted event is groundbreaking and would be showcased live and exclusive on ESPN+ in the USA. The market stateside still has not fully accepted women’s boxing, despite the recent sold-out success of the Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano bout at Madison Square Garden, New York City. Elsewhere female fighters do not command any significant attention or financial backing.

In Thursday’s press conference Top Rank CEO and hall-of-fame promoter Bob Arum summed up the promotion “I wouldn’t miss this for the world, this is history…people will remember Saturday night for a long time to come, I’m honoured to be here”.

The event would have, and still undoubtably will, feature two sensational match-ups and a host of Olympians and prospects.

Top of the bill on October 15 will be double Olympic champion Claressa Shields from Flint, Michigan, USA against Savannah Marshall from Hartlepool, NE England. This is a genuine grudge match with a ten year back story and will be for the undisputed world middleweight (11st,6lbs/160lbs) championship.

The Ring magazine champion Shields, (12-0, 2 KO’s) and self-proclaimed GWOAT (greatest woman of all time) holds the WBC, IBF and WBA titles, Marshall (12-0, 10 KO’s) the WBO. They respect, but don’t like each other. Their rivalry has been played out over a game of social media tennis, only more recently being face-to-face. The verbal barbs continued, to the entertainment of all in Thursday’s press conference. Spice was further added by the camps and respective promoters.

To everyone’s credit the promoters have worked tirelessly to get this event together. Ben Shalom saying “It’s been incredible to have so much collaboration between promoters”. This will be part of the current disappointment. To get to this point within 36 hours of the event taking place and it to fall down due to matters outside of their control will be a massive blow.

The chief support in the re-scheduled date, and in the USA vying for the main event, is the unification fight between American’s Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner at junior-lightweight (9st,4lbs/130lbs). The impressive Mayer (17-0, 5 KO’s) was confident of victory and an exceptional fight ahead. Baumgardner (12-1, 7 KO’s) equally so, and this postponement will have hit them hard. Their verbal exchanges were matching those of Shields and Marshall and continued on social media after the announcement.

The trio of Team GB Olympians, Lauren Price, Karriss Artingstall and ‘Sweet’ Caroline Dubois will also have to wait for five weeks.

Tokyo gold medallist Price was due to face Timea Belik over six rounds at welterweight, Artingstall to face Marina Sakharov at featherweight, and Dubois would have faced Milena Koleva at lightweight. Those fights will hopefully be re-scheduled in their entirety.

Other young fighters on the card included April Hunter, Georgia O’Connor, Ebonie Jones and Shannon Ryan. All spoke excitingly and eloquently at the press conference and the word “privilege” was repeatedly mentioned. This was, and will be, a massive opportunity to showcase their talents.

In total there would have been eleven female contests of two-minute rounds. Unequivocally groundbreaking.

So, as much as the disappointment and financial hit is for now, let us accept the decision made and commemorate the life of an outstanding monarch and statesperson of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth territories, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She commanded respect for the fairer sex and these women boxers will build on that in five weeks’ time.

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