FLINT, Mich. — Two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields needs no introduction.
On Sept. 10, she will travel to London to face Savannah Marshall in what is billed as the biggest women’s boxing event of all time. Both Shields and Marshall enter the O2 Arena sporting 12-0 records, with the winner stamped as the face of women’s boxing.
The IBF, WBC, WBA, WBO and WBF titles will be on the line. In 2012, while amateurs, Marshall became the only fighter to defeat Shields.
Zenger caught up with Claressa Shields to discuss the magnitude of the upcoming super fight.
Zenger: You have fought internationally at the amateur level, but going to the O2 Arena in September against Savannah Marshall is different. Were you satisfied with the negotiations?
Shields: I was fine with all that. It doesn’t matter what ring you fight in; it’s a ring. Whether it’s 20,000, or 7,000, or 8,000 seats, it’s a boxing ring, its fans. And I’m doing what I love to do. This is a great opportunity for myself and women’s boxing, fighting at the O2 Arena, main event, and having all the attention finally on us.
Zenger: With only 12 professional fights under your belt, your impact on women’s boxing has been amazing. Do you ever think about the influence you have had on the sport in such a short period of time?
Shields: I try to give myself some flowers, while I’m still in the midst of my career. I always tell myself: “You’re doing a great job, but just know, you’re not done yet.” There is more to be done, and that’s what keeps me going. I do recognize it, everyone recognizes it. People give me my flowers, love and respect. But we have so much more to go.
Zenger: When you fought Christina Hammer, many viewed that as a pick-em fight, and you made it look easy. It feels the Marshall fight is another 50-50 type of fight. Could you make this as non-competitive as the Hammer fight?
Shields: Yeah, but this is going to be a worse outcome for Savannah Marshall. Not just because of the trash talk, not just because of the history, but because of the kind of fighter that she is. She doesn’t know how it feels to be inside the ring with someone who is there to win.
She doesn’t know what it’s like to be fighting another champion who has so much on the line, and knows what they’re doing, knows how to come back from adversity. She hasn’t had to bite down on her mouthpiece and make it happen. I’ve had to do that. I’ve been under a lot of pressure against the best girls. I was 8-0 when I fought against Christina Hammer.
People were saying, she’s too tall, she’s going to out jab me, and she’s going to outbox me. I went out there, and I was the better boxer, I was the bigger puncher, but she held this record of 21-0 with 10 knockouts. Same with Marshall. She has fought against low opposition. She has built her confidence on that. She thinks she’s not in for a rough ride, but she is. I’m going to make the fight easier than it was with Hammer. Hammer thought she was in for an easy ride, but she had some respect.
Marshall doesn’t have any respect. She thinks she’s supposed to have my accomplishments. “I can beat every girl Claressa Shields beat,” because of something that happened 10 years ago. The truth is, she wouldn’t beat half the girls that I beat on my record.
Zenger: You are a pros-pro. Does it help get you up on tough days to train when you have the dialogue with Marshall on social media?
Shields: Nah, I’m going to get up and train anyway because it’s a fight. It’s about my legacy and greatness. It’s not as much about her as she thinks it is. She wants the “Claressa hates me” thing going, but I don’t. When I get up to train, I say: “What can I do to be better than yesterday?”
That’s my whole thing: What can I do? So I always up it a level, push myself, and I have some great, tough sparring to make sure I still have the abilities to do what I was doing years ago. As you get older, people say you lose it. But right now, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster than I’ve ever been. I’m more disciplined than ever, and that’s why these outcomes have been so one-sided. That’s how I’m able to dance on my walkouts, because not only am I doing what I love, but I know that I’m best prepared.
Zenger: Do you feel you have to start early to take the UK fans out of the match, or does the crowd not play a part of this in your mind?
Shields: The fans are the fans. But just like in “Rocky,” they were cheering for the Russian. Once they saw how Rocky was able to stand in there and give the Russian a run for his money, they started cheering for Rocky. I’m not a fan pleasure when it comes to the boxing. I’m not throwing more punches because the fans are cheering for me or because they’re not. I’m not making mistakes because the fans are booing or because there’s no action. I am there to do my job — and that’s to win.
But I’m going to have more fans than everybody expects. I have been selling out arenas in the U.S. for a long time. Some 5,000 seaters, 7,000 seaters, so to see 20,000… a lot of my fans have been wanting me to fight at the T-Mobil Arena, so they’re booking their flights for the O2 to support me.
Zenger: We got a taste of a huge women’s boxing fight atmosphere with Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor. Your fight with Marshall is the one everyone has been waiting for. What does Sept. 10 mean for women’s boxing?
Shields: When people talk about making the right fights, and important fights at the right time, this is what you look at. You look at Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano, you look at Claressa Shields vs. Savannah Marshall, look at, Alicia Baumgardner vs. Mikaela Mayer. You look at those fights, you see the belts, you see the build-ups, and this is why we say women boxers should be paid just like men.
We are just as entertaining, people want to see us, we make the fights at the right time, and women’s boxing is here to stay. There are girls coming up after us. We are paving the way for them. Sept. 10, being the main event at the O2 Arena means great things for women’s boxing.
It will bring more awareness to the equal pay, equal promotion and everything that needs to happen in women’s boxing.
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