Claressa Shields Defeats Savannah Marshall, Alycia Baumgardner Wins Too
By David A. Avila
(Photo by Al Applerose)
A sold-out London crowd saw Claressa Shields emerge the undisputed middleweight champion by slugging it out with nemesis Savannah Marshall on Saturday and Alycia Baumgardner unified the super featherweight division by split decision over Mikaela Mayer.
“That was definitely the hardest fight of my career,” Shields said to Marshall and her corner.
Shields (13-0, 2 Kos) was forced to dig deep in conquering Marshall (12-1, 10 Kos) the hard punching British fighter at the O2 Arena. An estimated 20,000 fans saw the middleweights and super featherweights battle for supremacy.
It was worth the ticket.
Shields had lost to Marshall 10 years ago while amateurs in an international tournament held in China. It was a thorn on her record and one that bothered the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time undisputed world champion.
In the first round Shields displayed her blistering hand-speed as she pummeled the slower Marshall to the body and head. Four and five-punch combinations rained on the taller knockout puncher Marshall. She fired back but was seldom accurate.
Though Marshall absorbed some big blows from Shields in the first three rounds, it never seemed to slow her down. Slowly, the number of incoming blows from the American fighter seemed to wane and that left opportunities for the British middleweight.
Around the seventh round Marshall began to use her physical strength to maneuver Shields into the ropes. She also used her elbow to keep the speedy American fighter from escaping while she fired combinations on Shields. Though not many landed, it was enough to convince the crowd and the judges Marshall was in the hunt.
Shields retaliated with blazing four and five-punch combinations. And though they were not as speedy as the earlier rounds, they connected. But Shields continued to be pushed into the ropes and that allowed Marshall openings to connect more and more.
Neither fighter ever seemed hurt by a big blow. Each connected cleanly at times but the power did not seem to bother either boxer.
Shields later said she could not see out of her right eye after the sixth round. But fought on.
Marshall had a good round in the ninth as she connected with three and four-punch combinations with Shields on the ropes. It was the one place where Marshall could execute her plan and she found success over and over.
In the 10th and final round Shields opened up with a right cross-left hook combination. It was a combination that worked most of the fight. She then moved away from the ropes and kept the fight away from the ropes. It allowed her to not be trapped by Marshall who feasted on Shields whenever her back touched the ropes.
After 10 rounds the judges saw it 96-94, 97-93 twice for Shields who becomes undisputed middleweight champion a second time.
Shields was grateful for the victory but more thankful for the large London crowd.
“I want to thank Savannah Marshall and the whole UK,” said Shields adding that women have fought decades for this type of environment and showcase. “It’s an unbelievable moment.”
Marshall also was grateful.
“A massive thank you to everyone who bought tickets,” Marshall said. “Claressa is a brilliant fighter. The greatest woman of all time.”
A unification battle between super featherweight world titlists saw Alycia Baumgardner’s counter-punching style appeal to two judges in a split-decision win over the taller jabbing Mikaela Mayer after 10 ebb and flow rounds.
From the opening round it was apparent that Baumgardner (13-1, 7 Kos) was looking to land the counter right shot that had allowed her to win the WBC and IBO titles a year ago. Against Mayer (17-1, 5 Kos), though they landed occasionally, it did not cause the same result, but won over the judges.
“I think I landed the harder, cleaner shots,” Baumgardner said.
Mayer lost the two first rounds as she tried to figure out a careful method of attack. Though the tall Southern California fighter had reach and height on her side, the power belonged to Baumgardner.
Things changed in the third round as Mayer began to find the range and rhythm for her left jab and used feints and timing to avoid the big right counters from her fellow American. And when she began to attack Baumgardner suddenly the momentum changed.
Baumgardner continued to cock the right hand in search of the knockout blow. Mayer was wise to the trap and continued to fire jabs and her own counters once Baumgardner unleashed the rights. Round after round seemed to sway in Mayer’s favor.
After the sixth round Baumgardner’s corner warned that she was not throwing enough punches. They were right.
The seventh round erupted in blows with both getting their combinations going. Mayer landed to the head and body and Baumgardner countered with a left hook to the head. Mayer connected with a three-punch combination and Baumgardner connected with a right. Both landed and both emptied their chambers. It was the best round of the fight.
Mayer returned to using jabs and moving to her left to avoid Baumgardner’s right hand counters in the ninth. And it worked to her advantage. But in the 10th and final round but became tentative and that favored Baumgardner’s counter-punching style.
One judge scored it 97-93 for Mayer but two saw it 96-95 for Baumgardner who now holds all the titles except the WBA.
“For all the doubters,” said Baumgardner. “I’m unified world champion of the world.”
Other televised bouts
British Olympian Lauren Price (2-0) won by technical knockout over Hungary’s Timea Belik (6-7) after delivering left after left the referee stopped the fight at 1:20 of the fourth round of the welterweight bout. Though Belik never went down or was close to going down, the referee apparently felt she was over-matched.
Britain’s Carolina DuBois (4-0, 3 KOs) out-fought Bulgaria’s Milena Koleva (10-15-1) and ended the lightweight match by knockout at 2:53 of the fifth round. A left cross to the body by southpaw DuBois sent Koleva slumped against the ropes helpless.
British Olympian Kariss Artingstall (2-0) had an easy time over Marina Sakharov (5-17-2) in a badly mismatched featherweight fight. There was nothing to learn in this contest.