HomeNewsHow Briton Savannah Marshall recovered from devastating loss to Claressa Shields

How Briton Savannah Marshall recovered from devastating loss to Claressa Shields

Venue: AO Arena, Manchester Date: Saturday, 1 July
Coverage: Live text commentary and reaction on BBC Sport website & app from 21:00 BST

The final bell chimed three times. Savannah Marshall raised both arms, in hope rather than with any real conviction.

On a historic night at London’s sold-out O2 Arena in October, the Hartlepool fighter – headlining an all-female card – had just gone the distance with bitter rival Claressa Shields.

“I knew she’d won but I thought: I’m on home turf, a lot of the rounds were close, I felt like it maybe it could have gone either way,” Marshall tells BBC Sport.

All three judges saw it in American Shields’ favour. Marshall suffered a first career defeat, losing her middleweight world title and an opportunity to become undisputed champion.

Marshall felt deflated. Battle scars were accompanied by deeper emotional wounds.

“I was so disappointed. I really, really wanted to win. I did everything I could,” the 32-year-old adds.

“I remember thinking that if I’d had the rub of the green I might have scraped a draw, but the right woman won and I can’t knock the result.

“But it was that little bit harder to take that it was against Claressa and the fact we don’t get on.”

After the obligatory post-fight interviews and a warmish embrace with Shields, Marshall was summoned over to a ringside seat by undisputed super-middleweight Franchon Crews-Dezurn. The pair exchanged words; the conversation ended in a fist bump.

“She said: Come to super-middleweight and I’ll give you a shot,” Marshall explains.

After some time out of the ring, she took up the American’s offer. Marshall will challenge Crews-Dezurn at Manchester’s AO Arena on Saturday.

She has a second consecutive opportunity to become a four-belt champion, and the chance to win world titles in two weight divisions – adding super-middleweight success to the WBO middleweight belt she held from 2020 to 2022.

A back-to-back loss on the big stage, however, could spell retirement for ‘The Silent Assassin’.

‘I had to sell the Shields fight’

In a decorated amateur career, which includes two Olympic gold medals, Shields’ only boxing loss was to Marshall at the 2012 World Championships.

Their rematch, a decade later, captured the imagination of the wider sporting public.

The usually reserved and softly spoken Marshall found her voice in the build-up. British sarcasm and wit, such as inviting Shields out for a coffee, went over the Michigan fighter’s head.

Shields – who goes by the alias ‘Greatest Woman of All Time’ – created her own viral moments. Her attempt at doing a Hartlepool accent was far from perfect, but drew big laughs.

There appeared to be genuine animosity, but Marshall says she has no ill feeling towards Shields and the pre-fight hype was exactly that: hype.

“I had to sell that fight,” she says. “It was the first time it was an all-female card. I knew how big fight that could be. I knew for years.

“The clash of personalities. America v Great Britain. It’s what got so many people on board. People sided with her because she’s cocky and confident. People sided with me because I was quiet.”

‘Retirement was 100% on my mind’

After years of build-up, anticipation and social media spats, the rematch was all over after just 20 minutes of action.

But, immediately after the fight, Marshall had little time to dwell too much on the defeat.

“It was all a crazy whirlwind,” she says. “I had to go to the doctors, then I got drug tested, then it was the press conference.

“I remember getting back to the hotel at 3am and I was flat out. You’d think I would be up all night, but I was just out until the next day.”

Marshall downplays the legacy created by her contest with Shields, arguably one of the most talked about female boxing fights in history.

“The reality is that legacy doesn’t really exist. The next big show is on and everyone is then talking about that,” she says.

“Before you know it, it’s nearly a year since me and Claressa boxed. The next generation won’t even know about that fight.”

When a rematch could not be negotiated, with Marshall saying Shields “outpriced herself”, the Briton took a four-month break from training and contemplated hanging up the gloves.

“Retirement was 100% on my mind,” she says. “I’d boxed the best in the world. I’d been beat. I wanted to be the best myself, so what do I want to do now? Do I still want to box?

“The reality of it is that I’ve been boxing for 20-plus years and there comes a time where I thought: If I don’t get a rematch, then where do I go?”

Another bite at the undisputed cherry

Franchon Crews-Dezurn and Savannah Marshall at a news conference before their super-middleweight world title fight
Crews-Dezurn welcomed the fight with Marshall after being ringside for her defeat by Shields

When the offer to fight Crews-Dezurn came in, Marshall decided to “give it another crack” and was presented an opportunity to create another piece of history.

“Franchon isn’t stupid,” Marshall says. “She’s a businesswoman. She just saw me fill out the O2 Arena and wanted a piece of it. She also knew I was her biggest payday.

“I’m now going to be the first British female to headline two arenas. That’s something to shout about.”

Crews-Dezurn, 36, has only lost once – a debut defeat by Shields in 2016 – in nine professional bouts.

The Baltimore fighter is quite the personality. A former American Idol contestant, her acapella rendition of Queen’s We Are The Champions in the build-up entertained a giggling Marshall.

The pair exchanged several words at Thursday’s highly charged news conference, much of it surrounding Marshall’s loss to Shields.

In fact, Shields has cast a long shadow over fight week – in the majority of interviews, her name has been mentioned.

Marshall insists her full attention is on the task ahead but – with Shields in attendance on Saturday – admits the rematch is on her mind.

The weight difference, though, may prove to be an obstacle.

“I think we will fight again,” Marshall says. “But could I make middleweight again? Those are conversations we will have to have in the future.”

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