Previewing Another Historic Weekend for Women’s Boxing

Women’s boxing has had a year to remember so far, and it only gets better this weekend. After Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano gave us a fight for the ages in April, we have another marquee women’s boxing event. Claressa Shields (12-0, 2 KOs), regarded by many as the greatest women’s boxer of all time, will look to avenge the only loss in her entire boxing career. That loss came in 2012, when a 17 year old Shields lost a controversial decision to a 21 year old Savannah Marshall (12-0, 10 KOs) in an amateur tournament in China. After that defeat, Shields went on a historic run winning gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Marshall, on the contrary, was eliminated in the quarterfinals of both games. Both women turned pro after the 2016 Olympics.

Shields (left) and Marshall (right) at their opening press conference (Photo via DAZN Boxing)

Their professional careers got off to much different starts. Shields became the unified super middleweight champion of the world in just her fourth fight. In 2019, she defeated Christina Hammer to become the undisputed middleweight champion, a feat that she is looking to accomplish once again if she is victorious this weekend. For Shields, being undisputed in one division wasn’t enough, so she moved down to the junior middleweight division after the Hammer victory and aimed to be a 2x undisputed champion. After picking up the WBC and WBO titles in a win over Ivana Habazin, she met fellow undefeated champion Marie Eve Dicaire in another undisputed showdown. Winning every round on each judge’s scorecard, Shields became a two-division undisputed world champion.

Savannah Marshall was not on the same fast track that Shields was on coming out of the amateurs. She didn’t get her first title opportunity until 2020, when she defeated Hannah Rankin for the WBO Middleweight Title (a title which was vacated by Shields after her win vs Hammer). She has made three defenses of her title since, winning all three by stoppage. Marshall is one of women’s boxing’s hardest punchers, and her 10 KO wins in 12 fights back up that claim. She is coming off of a brutal one punch KO of Femke Hermans, which definitely added to the hype of this upcoming matchup. Many people point to the knockout ratio of Marshall and her punching power as the difference maker, but I would not go that far. Claressa Shields has a much lower knockout rate, but she has also been facing the best fighters in her divisions since she turned pro. She even made her pro debut against the now Undisputed Super Middleweight Champion, Franchon Crews Dezurn.

Marshall does have 10 knockout wins in 12 fights, but four of those opponents had losing records and some of the other opposition were either naturally much smaller or older and inactive. At the end of the day, the oddsmakers have it as a 50/50 fight so anything can happen. I have to favor the boxing pedigree of Shields, as she has had more success in the amateurs and in the pros. She has won a total of eleven different title belts across three different divisions, while Marshall has only won the WBO middleweight strap that she brings into this fight. She has beaten much stiffer competition in the professional ranks, and I think that will be much to her benefit come Saturday. As long as she fights smart and not emotional, I expect Claressa Shields to win a unanimous decision and avenge the only defeat in her boxing career.

(Photos via Mikey Williams, Top Rank (left) and Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing (right)

What makes this card so special is that not only do we get an undisputed title fight in the main event, but we also get a title unification matchup between two elite champions in the co-main as well. Mikaela Mayer (17-0, 5 KOs) will be putting her WBO and IBF titles on the line against WBC Champion Alycia Baumgardner (12-1, 7 KOs). Mayer, a 2016 US Olympian, has been promoted heavily by Top Rank as one of women’s boxing’s brightest stars. She became a world champion in December 2020 when she defeated Ewa Brodnicka by unanimous decision. She then defeated longtime reigning IBF Champion Maiva Hamadouche to unify the titles in 2021. The fight was a barn burner from the opening bell, and the victory proved that Mayer was worthy of the attention given to her by Top Rank. Despite the scorecards being wide, the Hamadouche fight was not an easy fight at all. Mayer had to deal with the relentless aggression of her opponent from the first round until the tenth.

Many believe that this is the most difficult fight for Mayer to date. Alycia Baumgardner did not have much fanfare surrounding her when she turned pro back in 2017. She lost a split decision in her seventh pro fight, but after bouncing back with four consecutive victories, she earned her first world title opportunity. She squared off against reigning WBC Super Featherweight Champion Terri Harper in Sheffield, England. Baumgardner came into the fight as the underdog, but showed right away that she was the better fighter in the ring that night. She boxed well in the first three rounds, building a lead on the scorecards. In round four, she exploded with a straight right hand that froze Terri Harper in a defenseless position, prompting the referee to come in and stop the fight. After a mandatory title defense in April, Baumgardner made it known that she was open for a title unification bout with Mayer.

That brings us to where we are today, on the horizon of two mega fights for women’s boxing. The event is at the O2 Arena, Greenwich, United Kingdom, and should be a great fight atmosphere. Picking up where Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano left off in April, these four women are continuing the trend of major championship fights happening across women’s boxing. Both matchups should be highly competitive and the odds reflect that. Shields and Marshall is virtually a 50/50 fight, with each being a slight favorite on different sportsbooks. Mayer is the favorite in her fight vs Baumgardner, but the odds in that fight aren’t too far apart either. I favor Shields and Mayer to win, but the Mayer vs Baumgardner matchup is one of the hardest picks I have had to make all year. Mayer with her pedigree and resume has the upper hand, but Alycia Baumgardner can not be underestimated. She will be looking to counter Mayer in between her combination work, and if she is able to get on the inside then her accuracy and punching power could cause Mayer problems. No matter who is victorious this weekend, this is another step in the right direction when it comes to promoting women’s boxing, and if you’re a fan of the sport, then you will not want to miss the action this weekend.

Both fights have endured a great buildup the past few weeks. None of the four women have backed down from any verbal sparring, and they all have supreme confidence heading into the biggest weekend of their lives. I have included “Savannah Marshall: The Gloves Are Off” episode by Sky Sports, along with a Top Rank documentary series titled “Trash Talk: Mayer vs Baumgardner”. Both episodes are great opportunities to learn more about each woman before they step into the ring, and I highly recommend tuning in to both the preview shows along with the fight card itself which takes place this Saturday on ESPN+ stateside.

Fight Odds via DraftKings:

Shields (-125) vs Marshall (+100)

Mayer (-270) vs Baumgardner (+205)

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Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly