Photo by Adam J. Dewey / Salita Promotions
Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall meet for the unified middleweight title on Saturday at London’s O2 Arena in a hugely-anticipated clash.
A crowd of around 20,000 expected and the belief is that Marshall is the puncher and Shields is the boxer but the American star is confident she will beat Marshall regardless of the type of fight it is.
When asked whether she expects a hard or exciting fight on Saturday, Shields replied, “As a great fighter, it’s best to not think about those kind of things.”
Then, she added: “I like to go in there and take it round by round. And that’s how I dominate my opponents. I don’t know what her game plan is. If her game plan is to try and stand there in the middle of the ring and to out-bang me, she going to be sleeping. If her game plan is to be smart and try to box, move, she’ll last a bit longer. I just know that I have prepared for everything in this fight. She doesn’t know what my game plan is, I don’t know what her game plan is, but I know that we both have had hard training camps and I’m looking forward to a fight. If it has to be a war, it’s going to be a war that I win. If it’s going to be a boxing match, I’m going to win the boxing match. And if it has to be both, I have to get tricky and some figure things out, I’m prepared to do it all.”
Shields is 12-0 (2) and still only 27, despite a vast array of accomplishments including two Olympic golds and multiple world titles as a pro.
She’s completed her camp in the UK and is ready to take centre stage at the O2.
“I feel good,” Shields continued, “I live for moments like this. When people say it’s impossible or people say it’s going to be hard and Savannah Marshall has knockout power this and knockout power that and she’s a knockout artist, those type of things really get me amped up for this fight. I’ve had brutal training camps and I don’t believe a woman can knock me out and I don’t believe that I can be beat, but people are saying this is my biggest challenge and here I am, and I’ll be I’ll take the challenge.”
The disdain between the rivals is clear. Marshall beat Shields in the amateurs a decade ago and Shields contends the Peter Fury-trained Marshall has been dining out in it ever since.
But Shields will concede of Marshall that, “I think she’s good.”
Shields argues she has fought better competition, but regardless of what either have done in the past, Shields believes her greatness will be on display in London and she will show she’s a level above Savannah.
“People say the girls I fight against are trash or whatever, that’s not true,’ Shields said. “I believe that I’m great and they’re good, and how good they are depends on them, not me. I’m great regardless.”
Then, of how personal the feud is between her and the Englishwoman, Shields explained, “I got my pros and cons about her. This whole fight at the O2 Arena is because of my hard work. I feel like she’s been given a shortcut because she’s from Great Britain, and she’s from the UK, but the little black girl from America… I had to work my ass off, and 12 belts in, when I had one belt, I wasn’t given an opportunity like this. Me having two Olympic gold medals, I wasn’t put on a platform like this. It took me to become the two-time undisputed, three-time division champ, 12-time world champion and I felt she just used the amateur win and chucked it down everybody’s throats to a point that they gave her a shortcut and said, ‘You know what? If you’re saying you can beat Claressa Shields and you’re from the UK, we’re going to give you the opportunity.’ But I don’t think she earned it.”
But Shields is in the UK for the fight, though she insists that it’s not because of Marshall or her opponent, but the reverence women’s boxing has in the United Kingdom. The O2 bill is a glamor night for women’s boxing, with champions and prospects across the board, and Shields is on board with the respect the women’s sport has in Britain.
“Absolutely,’ Shields admitted. “Let’s be honest, I’ve been on main events on cards and I’ve fought on some of the biggest platforms in America but women’s boxing isn’t respected. So I thought it would get here [on a huge stage] and I’d be one of the trailblazers, but I just thought it would come sooner and I thought that America would do it first – because America has the best fighters. That’s what I thought. But I respect Sky Sports and Boxxer for giving women that even playing field, giving us that equal promotion, giving us the venue… and that was one of the main things I didn’t get in the US. I got the main event, I got the promotion, I got the good pay, but I was never given that opportunity to show that I can sell out big arenas. I sold out a 7,000-seat arena but I was never given the chance to fight at the T-Mobile Arena, and it’s my dream to fight there, in Vegas. I was never given that opportunity, even though I had the belts and the Olympic gold medals and the titles, I just wasn’t given that opportunity. But I knew women’s boxing would be here. I thought America would do it first, but since they don’t have as much respect for women’s boxing as the UK does, that’s why it’s being done here and we’re fighting in front of 20,000 at the O2 Arena.”