Where Does Shields vs Marshall Rank in Women’s Boxing History?
Women’s boxing will reach a new height this weekend when Claressa Shields (12-0), the self-proclaimed G.W.O.A.T (Greatest Woman of All Time), dons the gloves at the O2 Arena in London, England to fight challenger Savannah Marshall (12-0) on Marshall’s home turf. Shields is unmatched in her boxing accomplishments at the age of 27 and doesn’t look to be slowing down. She is the only boxer in history to simultaneously hold all four titles in two separate weight classes. At this time, she has the WBC, WBA and IBF titles for middleweight, but is lacking the WBO. Shields vs Marshall really has captured the boxing world ahead of their delayed bout.
Marshall secured the WBO title in just her ninth fight two years ago, and like Shields, she is undefeated in her professional boxing career. Before she went pro, Marshall got a taste of Shields in an amateur matchup at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in 2012, and tasted victory. That amateur bout was the only blemish on Shields’ otherwise stunning overall record.
When Shields vs Marshall takes place at the O2, one of the two women will become the undisputed middleweight champion in one of the most highly-anticipated bouts of the year. The co-main event will include the WBO, IBF and The Ring female junior lightweight champ, Mikaela Mayer going toe-to-toe with the WBC and IBO champion Alycia Baumgardner. Postponed from its original scheduling of September 10th, this event has benefited from another month of build-up and promotion. But before we settle down for another huge night in women’s boxing, we’re going to look back at the history of women’s boxing to see where the Shields vs Marshall bout ranks with the greats.
Barbara Buttrick vs. Phyllis Kugler (1957)
Anyone who has been following women’s boxing since its inception will recall Barbara Buttrick from the 1950s. This English fighter was quite diminutive, standing just 4-foot-11, but completely dominated the bantamweight and flyweight division for an entire decade, beaten only by JoAnn Hagen, who was 30 pounds heavier.
Phyllis Kugler was also undefeated when she was paired up with Buttrick. The first time they fought was at Pompano Beach, Florida. After four rounds, the fight was declared a draw, and that drew interest in both boxers and a rematch was scheduled to take place five weeks later in Texas. It was the first women’s match to take place in the state, and in six rounds, Buttrick repeatedly used her left jab to deliver blows that left her opponent with a bloodied nose and applied continuous pressure the entire time. There was no question of who was better by the end of the fight; Buttrick earned the inaugural Women’s Bantamweight Champion by unanimous decision that day.
Christy Martin vs. Deirdre Gogarty (1996)
The most famous female boxer of the ‘90s, Christy Martin is credited with putting women’s boxing in the limelight. She got good exposure after signing on with Don King and appearing on the undercards of Mike Tyson events. In 1996, she faced Irish boxer Deirdre Gogarty, who was coming off of a first-round TKO win over newcomer Jessica Breiffelder at Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Gogarty entered the ring disadvantaged. She weighed significantly less than her opponent and was also an inferior striker. But despite the imbalance, Gogarty lasted all six rounds and even gave Martin a bloody nose in the middle of the fight. Martin won by decision, extending her record to 29-1-2. The fight was aired on Showtime to roughly 30 million viewers and proved to be more entertaining than the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno headliner.
Laila Ali vs. Jacqui Frazier-Lyde (2001)
The daughter of Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali went pro in 1999 and made her way to the top of the super middleweight division. The biggest fight in that span was against the daughter of heavyweight champion Joe Frazier. The matchup would continue the historic rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier through their daughters. Both women performed well individually on the undercard of a previous event, and promoters could not resist pairing them together in 2001 in what would be the first women’s fight to headline a pay-per-view event. Ali and Frazier-Lyde were both undefeated fighters at that point; Ali had nine wins racked up and Frazier-Lyde had seven. The fight lasted eight rounds, and Ali got the win by majority decision.
Ann Wolfe vs. Vonda Ward (2004)
The biggest knockout in women’s boxing history goes to the Ann Wolfe-Vonda Ward bout that happened in 2004 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Wolfe had dropped just one fight in 18 when she entered the ring and was keen to take a major step forward in her career by earning a world title in a third weight division. Her opponent, Ward entered the ring undefeated, with 18 wins racked up and the WIBA and IBA female heavyweight titles on the line. Despite being nine inches taller than her opponent, Ward was caught off guard one minute into the first round and suffered a massive knockout by her chin. Ward fell to the mat instantly and had to be taken to the hospital. That was the only loss Ward experienced in her 24-fight career.
Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano (2022)
Earlier this year, we had the first female boxing match to headline an event at Madison Square Garden: a matchup between the undisputed lightweight champ, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, a nine-time world champion in seven weight divisions who still holds the record for having the most boxing championship titles in different weight classes. For boxing betting, Taylor was a slight underdog at +115, while Serrano checked in at -140 for this sold-out event. The success of this bout on the gate and at the box office really has paved the way for fights like Shields vs Marshall. After a back-and-forth affair for all 10 rounds, Taylor had the better score on two of the three judge’s scorecards, extending her perfect record to 21 and title defences to six. It was Serrano’s second loss in a 45-fight career.