Trash talking and social media call-outs between boxers have become commonplace within the sport and whereas trash talking is nothing new, the introduction of social media platforms like Twitter has contributed to the modern-day matchmaking process in a way that promotional outfits of bygone decades could only dream of.
However, you don’t have to spend too long speaking to multi-medal winning amateur and unbeaten professional Savannah Marshall to realise that the incessant need for many to manufacture ‘bad blood’ in order to make fights, is not her style
Marshall’s reluctance to talk down an opponent unnecessarily, became abundantly clear as she reflected on an impromptu face-off with potential future opponent Claressa Shields in November at The York Hall, Bethnal Green, with both fighters playing out a respectfully uneventful stare down. That’s not to say that the ever composed, calm Marshall wasn’t ready to hold her own should the normally boastful American Shields have decided to take aim. As she recalled the meet-up she said, “I’m not a nasty person, so I’ve got nothing against her, but even when she was being nice, I thought, ‘oh come on Claressa give me something’.
Then it got to the point where I thought, I’m not the type of person to just start something, you instigate it and I’ll go from there”.
The face-off certainly showed that the usual physiological response to that kind of situation, sweaty palms, agitated, twitchy tendencies didn't prevail, Marshall's body language seemed to display her usual undisturbed sense of calmness. Shields was not in her snarling, ultra-competitive mode and also appeared relaxed. A tactic? looking for a psychological edge? who knows.
The possibility of a clash between the two has been simmering for a while and as Shields-the self-proclaimed GWOAT (greatest woman of all time)-has beaten all those in front of her on her way to unifying the middleweight division (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO), talk has naturally turned to the only fighter to have ever defeated her, Britain’s Savannah Marshall.
The pair shared the ring during their amateur days in the second round of the 2012 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Qinhuangdao with Marshall victorious, eventually going on to win a Gold medal. It is the only defeat that Shields suffered during a 78 fight amateur career which saw her win two consecutive Olympic Gold medals and although it doesn’t appear to be of huge significance to the suitably nicknamed ‘silent assassin’, the boxer from Hartlepool wonders whether it holds emotional relevance to Shields, “Look we boxed years ago, to be honest, I had over 100 amateur bouts, and I don’t even remember that one, that’s just how insignificant it was.
I think she’s watched it about a thousand times, but to me, it was just a bout and when we did the interview, she just went into talking about our fight, I just remember thinking, god it was eight years ago, you need to get over that”.
It was a response that seems symptomatic of how Savannah Marshall deals with her business, her almost apologetic admission that she doesn't even recall the occasion is indicative that her mindset is that it’s just another fight. Shields, a vociferous and outspoken character, is more divisive as a result and is occasionally cast as the villain of the piece, never shy of offering her opinions, historically noted for getting in the face of opponents at press conferences and weigh-ins.
It is unfair to suggest that this fight should be made on the strength of a bout which happened in the amateurs nearly eight years ago as both are very different fighters and as successful as Shields has become in terms of titles during her professional reign, Marshall herself has shown notable development since working with Peter Fury. It would likely be a different proposition for both operators, which is acknowledged by Marshall. “She’s a totally different fighter, I’ve seen a lot of her fights and she has really improved, but I feel like I’m a totally different fighter, I can switch-hit, my defenses are a lot better, I’m punching a lot more.
So, she can watch that fight as many times as she wants, it’s going to be a totally different fight anyway because I’m not that fighter no more, so it’s a bit irrelevant”.
Both fighters have unbeaten records in the professional ranks with Shields 9-0 with two KO’s and Marshall 8-0 and six inside the distance.
If a rivalry can be struck up between both skillful fighters, it would be monumental for women’s boxing and really help to further an already thriving scene. Pioneers like Jane Couch have undoubtedly helped to pave the way for the future, with the likes of Katie Taylor, Chantelle Cameron, Natasha Jonas, Terri Harper, and Hannah Rankin becoming household names among the British Boxing fraternity and fighters like Cecilia Braekhus and Shields also leaving their mark on the sport internationally.
28-year-old Marshall believes that, despite the hard work, the sport isn’t quite there yet and won’t be during her career. “I don’t think it’ll ever be where it should be, it’s always got the stigma of ‘women shouldn’t get hit’ and ‘women are too precious to get hit’ but it’s getting better and it’s thanks to the likes of Katie Taylor, it’s slowly, slowly getting better but I don’t think it’ll be in my career”.
Marshall will be looking towards a successful 2020 after coming off the back of some impressive performances last year, most recently in October, where she fought Ashleigh Curry at the Newcastle Arena, stopping her opponent in round 3 of the contest. It was a mature performance and despite her initial misgivings, she showcased her ability to fight out of a southpaw stance during moments of switch-hitting. It was a fluid, relaxed display and in jovial mood, Marshall referred to the moment she was asked to switch hit, “I remember when he (Peter Fury) first-ever told me to switch, I was like Peter I can’t go, southpaw, that’s not for me but he’s got it out of me to be fair”.
Questioned on the influence of being in camp with Hughie Fury and being trained by Peter Fury, she added, “Well it’s Peter’s style, isn’t it? it’s a safe style, look at Tyson when he boxed Wilder, he was able to ride the shot, even though he went down if he had taken that shot full on he would have never got up.
I’ve been with Peter for about two and a half years, so Peter’s had me really through all of my professional career and I feel like I’m just starting to make that style my own”.
Following on from the fight in October, Marshall indicated that the most likely plan in the immediate future before possibly moving down in weight would be to contest a world title at Super Middleweight. “I’d like to win a world title at Super Middle, there’ll be two unified champions, so I’m hoping to have the chance to get one of those belts”.