Photo by Adam J. Dewey / Salita Promotions
Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall meet for the unified middleweight title in a highly anticipated clash at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday.
Around 20,000 people expect and believe that Marshall is a punch and shield boxer, but the American star is confident that she will beat Marshall regardless of the type of fight.
Asked whether she expects a tough or exciting fight on Saturday, Shields replied, “As a great fighter, it’s good not to think about those kinds of things.”
Then she added: “I want to go in there and make a circle. And this is how I control my opponents. I don’t know what her game plan is. If her game plan is to stand in the middle of the ring and try to knock me out, she’s going to sleep. If her game plan is to be smart and box, move on, she’ll last a little longer. I know I’m 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 we’ve both had tough training camps and I’m looking forward to the fight. If there was to be a war, it was a war I won. If it’s going to be a boxing match, I’ll win the boxing match. And if it has to be both, I have to be crafty and know some things, I’m ready to do everything.
Shields is 12-0 (2) and still only 27, despite a string of accomplishments as a pro, including two Olympic golds and multiple world titles.
She has completed her UK camp and is set to perform on the O2 Center Stage.
“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 tough and Savannah Marshall knocks this power and she knocks that and she’s a knockout artist, those kinds of things really make me train for this fight. “I’ve had full training camps and I don’t believe a woman can take me out and I don’t believe I can hit, but people are saying this is my biggest challenge and here I am, and I will be. I’ll take the challenge,” he said.
The disdain between the contestants is palpable. Marshall beat Shields in the amateur a decade ago, and Shields says the Peter Fury-trained Marshall has been eating Marshall ever since, but Shields admits Marshall “I think she’s good.”
Shields says she’s fought better competition, but regardless of what they’ve done in the past, Shields believes her greatness will show in London and prove she’s a step above Savannah.
“People say the girls I fight are dirty or something, that’s not true,” Shields said. “I believe that I am great and they are great, and their goodness depends not on me but on them. I’m great no matter what.
Shields then explains how personal the feud between her and the Englishman is, “I’ve got my pros and cons about her. This fight at the O2 Arena is all because of my hard work. I feel like she’s given a shortcut because she’s from Great Britain, and she’s from England, but the little black American girl… I had to get off my ass, and in 12 belts, when I did one belt, I wasn’t’ given that chance. I have never sat on a podium like this, winning two Olympic gold medals. It took me to become a two-time undisputed, three-time division champion, 12-time world champion, and I felt like she just took advantage of the amateur wins and they gave her a shortcut to everybody’s throat and they said, ‘You know what? If you say you can win Claressa Shields and you’re from England, we’ll give you the chance.’ But I don’t think she got it.”
But Shields is in England for the fight, although she says it’s not because of Marshall or her opponent, but the respect of women’s boxing in the UK. The O2 bill is a glamorous night for women’s boxing, with champions and prospects across the board and the Shields aboard with the glory of British women’s sport.
“Absolutely,” Shields admitted. “Let’s be honest, I’ve been in major events on the card and I’ve fought on the biggest stages in America, but women’s boxing is not respected. So I thought it would get here [on a huge stage] And I will be one of the followers, but I thought it would come sooner and I thought America would do it first – because America has the best fighters. That’s what I thought. But I respect Sky Sports and Boxers for giving women that even playing field, giving us that equal promotion, giving us the space… and that’s one of the things I didn’t get in the US. I got the main event, I got the promotion, I got paid well, but I was never given that chance to show that I could sell out the big arenas. I’ve sold out 7,000 seats but I’ve never been given the opportunity to fight at 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 was never given that opportunity. But I know women’s boxing will be here. “I thought America would do it first, but they don’t have the respect for women’s boxing like England, so that’s why it’s happening here and we’re fighting in front of 20,000 at the 2 Arena,” he said.