Two big women’s boxing bouts are coming to us on Saturday from London, as Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall vie for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world, and Mikaela Mayer takes on Alycia Baumgardner for three belts at 130 lbs.
Both fights have plenty of heat behind them, rivalries that are old and/or have become very personal in the build-up.
So who wins?
Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall
Scott Christ (69-31)
The two best fighters in the world north of 135, in my view, but I just think Shields is now too good for Marshall. That said, I believe it will be the toughest fight Claressa has had in a boxing ring as a pro, and that Savannah will win some rounds and keep it a contest.
Shields does get hit, and while Marshall is a better puncher than, well, maybe just about anybody in women’s boxing, Savannah would need to land a one-hitter that shocks basically everyone, or put together a truly sustained attack. Shields isn’t a puncher — she predicts knockouts every fight and rarely if ever even gets opponents in trouble — but she is an excellent boxer who doesn’t get herself tangled up in brawls.
There’s nobody better that these two should be fighting, and the same thing will be true after it’s over. I think Shields takes it, but that it just might be good enough for Boxxer to do a rematch in 2023. If it’s not, or they just don’t, it’s hard to figure out what comes next for Shields in particular. Shields UD-10
Wil Esco (81-19)
Claressa Shields has been waiting a long, long time for some payback against Savannah Marshall, but despite that I don’t think she’s going to emotionally unravel once the opening bell rings. Shields hasn’t had much by way of really stiff competition due to her being one of the few elite level fighters in women’s boxing, and while Marshall might be better than a lot of her opponents, I struggle to think that Marshall is going to have a lot of success here.
No, Shields is not a puncher, but she brings a level of knowhow and determination that I think Marshall hasn’t been up against in the professional ranks. And while I think Shields ends up winning a clear decision here, I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be much of a snoozer. I’m taking Shields over the distance. Shields UD-10
John Hansen (77-23)
Claressa Shields has fought 92 rounds across her 10 professional fights that didn’t end in knockouts. With three judges for each of those 92 rounds, she’s had 276 unique round scores. She’s only lost 15 of them. Not only is she great, she’s a dominant technical fighter.
Yes, Savannah Marshall knocks opponents out far more frequently than most female boxers. And, yes, Savannah Marshall beat Shields in the amateurs, once, back when Shields was just barely old enough to buy her own ticket to an R-rated movie. Shawn Porter famously beat Oleksandr Usyk in the amateurs back in 2006, and I would be about as likely to pick Porter in a 2022 pro rematch between the two of them as I am to pick Marshall here.
Marshall’s best chance is catching Shields with a power shot if Shields gets reckless and overaggressive. But, Shields has been content to pile up rounds and decision wins for half a decade now. She finally has a chance to settle a 10 year old grudge, and I don’t see her making a wildly uncharacteristic mental or stylistic mistake that would take away that satisfaction.
We know a very young Claressa Shields can be defeated through the unique quirks of amateur scoring, and that a prime Claressa Shields can be defeated with legal use of mixed martial arts ground tactics. Neither are an option for Marshall. Shields UD-10
Patrick Stumberg (82-18)
Claressa Shields’ success is not due to the women’s talent pool being bone-dry above 140 lbs. She’s a genuinely terrific fighter whose only flashes of weakness show when she sacrifices her technical mastery in pursuit of a finish. It’s a genuine tragedy that she lacks peers to test herself against and grow alongside.
Marshall’s close, but she ain’t quite there. Shields possesses the range management and head movement to steer clear of Marshall’s killshots, the faster hands, and the superior combination punching. Marshall needs to knock her out before Shields can get the download on her somewhat one-note 1-2 offense, and “T. Rex” is too seasoned to fall victim to that. I’m not saying Marshall can’t put her away, just that she’s unlikely to land the sort of punch that can do so unless Shields slugs it out with her to try and prove a point. A competitive start gets increasingly one-sided as Shields once again proves herself a level above. Shields UD-10
Mikaela Mayer vs Alycia Baumgardner
Scott Christ (69-31)
I think Baumgardner is very good. I also think there may be a clear in-ring class difference when all is said and done here. As much as Baumgardner does have legitimate skills, the bulk of the buzz behind her is from Terri Harper fighting the worst fight Terri Harper’s ever fought, walking into power punches and getting herself stopped. You will recall, if you watched it in April, that Baumgardner didn’t look quite so destructive and monstrous against a 41-year-old Edith Soledad Matthysse.
Mayer’s not going to walk onto bombs the way Harper did, and I’m not sure there’s any area where Baumgardner has a real advantage; if she’s a better puncher, I don’t think it’s by enough to make a difference. Mayer has been in lots of fights where her skill advantages made it easy, but she’s had a war with Maiva Hamadouche, too, and she didn’t crack under real, sustained pressure.
I don’t think Baumgardner can win a boxing contest and I don’t think Mayer will give her the openings a lesser opponent might. I would be more surprised by Baumgardner winning this fight than I would be if Mayer wins every round. The best hope for Baumgardner may be if she has managed to get Mayer riled up enough to fight dumb, or if she can do that within the fight itself. Mayer UD-10
Wil Esco (81-19)
I suppose this is a pretty good matchup so far as women’s grudge matches go. I do, however, have a hard time seeing this fight living up to hype so far as how it’s been promoted. No matter how much Mikaela Mayer may dislike Alicia Baumgardner, I don’t think she’s the type of fighter to get overly emotional in a match and that lends itself to Mayer just using her physical advantages to outpoint Baumgardner.
I would very much love to be wrong and this turn out to be a barnburner matchup, but I have a feeling we end up with an underwhelming action fight that Mayer pretty safely takes on points. Mayer UD-10
John Hansen (77-23)
Cards on the table: I need to make up ground in the Staff Picks if I want the next eleven weeks of this contest to matter, and I expect Esco and Stumberg to pick Mikaela Mayer here. So, give me Baumgardner, the bigger puncher, and no slouch as a boxer, either.
Baumgardner is good, and certainly motivated in this fight. I’d feel better about the pick if she had a full three minutes per round to use her power advantage. And Mayer has stood up through a slugfest with Maiva Hamadouche, so Baumgardner isn’t likely to steamroll Mayer anyway.
There’s plenty of reason to play the favorite and bet on Mayer. But, that’s a luxury for someone on stronger Staff Picks footing. Baumgardner is a champion, too. She’s the power threat. She can win this fight. She must. She has to keep me from slipping further down into Scott Christ territory. Baumgardner MD-10
Patrick Stumberg (82-18)
Fair play to Baumgardner, who’s both earned her way here and cultivated some quality beef along the way. She won’t win, be she deserves her props regardless.
Baumgardner’s titular right-hand “Bomb” is her only real advantage that I can see. Not only is Mayer savvy enough at range to defuse it, she showed her superior infighting chops in that war with Maiva Hamadouche, which also amply demonstrated her ability to battle through adversity. She’s not going anywhere unless Baumgardner puts her to sleep, which Baumgardner will find increasingly difficult as Mayer matches her at distance and tears up her body inside. Barring a one-hitter-quitter in the first few rounds, Mayer will take over wherever the fight goes. Mayer UD-10