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Undisputed: Women’s boxing booming as Savannah Marshall joins elite company

Boxing writer John MacDonald looks at the incredibly healthy shape of women's boxing in the United Kingdom following Savannah Marshall's undisputed world title success over Franchon Crews-Dezurn.

On Saturday night, at Manchester’s AO Arena, Savannah Marshall became only the second British woman to capture all four world title belts in a weight-class, as she defeated Franchon Crews-Dezurn to become the undisputed super-middleweight world champion.

The fight itself was scrappy; the champion looked to display her superior strength in the clinch at every available opportunity, in an attempt to negate Marshall’s superior skillset and power. However, the Englishwoman was able to land enough telling blows to win the bout by majority decision.

This was Marshall’s first fight since suffering the only loss of her career to her foe, Claressa Shields, in October. Marshall’s success over Shields at the 2012 World Championships is the only defeat the American has suffered as an amateur or professional. 

The ‘Silent Assassin’ was adamant she would repeat the feat in the paid ranks, while the ‘GWOAT’ looked to set the record straight, with all the marbles at 160lbs at stake. The public bought into their bitter rivalry as they sold out the O2 Arena and became the most watched female fight in history. 

The bout was enthralling, but Shields was simply too good!

In the wake of Marshall’s victory, British boxing currently has seven female world champions, and of those, two are undisputed, while another has unified three of the belts. 

With exciting prospects such as Lauren Price, Caroline Dubois and Karriss Artingstall progressing rapidly, it appears Britain’s success will continue for the foreseeable future. Just 25 years ago, such achievements were unfathomable.

Jane Couch forced change...

In 1998, Jane Couch took the British Boxing Board of Control to a tribunal after they refused to license her to fight professionally. She faced rampant misogyny; such as claims that PMS made women too unstable to fight. 

Couch ultimately won her case, but it would be many more years before the sport would gain mainstream attention and recognition.

At London 2012, women’s boxing featured at the Olympics for the first time, and it proved to be a pivotal moment for the sport. The Games showcased the skills of female fighters, turned gold medallists Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams into household names and inspired women and girls to lace up the gloves for the first time.

While Couch did not receive the credit she deserved for the trail that she blazed during her career, another pioneer is finally being rewarded with plaudits and honours.

Miss GB, Natasha Jonas...

Natasha Jonas was the first female boxer to compete for Great Britain at the Olympics. She had been considered a strong contender for a medal, but prizes eluded her as she was eliminated by Katie Taylor at the quarter-final stage. 

For a period of time, it appeared that Jonas was set to become professional boxing’s nearly-woman. World title shots against Terri Harper and Katie Taylor saw Jonas fall agonisingly short; the Harper bout deemed a draw, while Taylor won by the slimmest of margins.

Natasha Jonas

Last year, Jonas’ luck finally turned. The Liverpudlian jumped up three weight-classes to super-welterweight, halting Chris Namus in the second round to capture the WBO title. 

Having waited so long to become a world champion, she added the WBC and IBF straps to her collection in consecutive fights. Her performances saw her named Boxer of the Year by the British Boxing Board of Control.

On Saturday, Jonas stopped Kandi Wyatt in the eighth round to win the IBF welterweight strap, becoming a two-weight world champion in the process. Despite being 39-years-old, Jonas appears to be in her prime.

Katie Taylor, an undisputed boxing great...

While Jonas’ success was a slow-burn, her amateur rival, Katie Taylor, transitioned seamlessly to paid ranks. Ireland’s Taylor played a key role in raising the profile of women’s boxing on these shores, as the majority of her fights have taken place in the United Kingdom.

Taylor became undisputed lightweight champion in just 16 fights and in April made history as her bout against Amando Serrano became the first women’s boxing match to sell-out Madison Square Garden.

In May, Taylor attempted to enhance her legacy by challenging Chantelle Cameron for all the gold at super-lightweight. The fight was Taylor’s first in Ireland as a professional, but it was not a happy homecoming as the Englishwoman was simply too sharp on the night. 

Having defeated Jessica McCaskill in her previous fight, Cameron had beaten two undisputed champions consecutively. A rematch seems likely as the Bray native seeks to right the wrongs of their first encounter.

Marshall v Shields 2?

Like Taylor, Marshall has her sights set on redemption. 

It appears the ill-feeling between the pair has not dissipated yet. The bad-blood, mixed with Marshall’s power and Shields’ skills was a combination which captivated the public and will likely do so again. 

With two highly anticipated rematches likely to occur this year, the immediate future is bright for women’s boxing.

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