The thudding power of Savannah Marshall was once again demonstrated tonight at the Newcastle Arena.
Marshall successfully defended her WBO middleweight title with a baseball bat of a left hook that put her challenger Femke Hermans down at the end of round three. The impact of the shot was such that the fight was immediately waved off.
A keen observer ringside was unified 160lbs champion Claressa Shields who was taking in her next opponent with an undisputed title clash set to be announced very soon.
Hartlepool’s Marshall was the headline act in the North-East and carried the pressure of knowing that one of the biggest fights in women’s boxing was at risk. The Geordie faithful would have eased any anxieties as they welcomed Marshall down the ramp and into the ring with a rapturous reception.
The opening two minutes was a move around for both. Marshall flicking out her jab while the elusive Hermans waited for an opening.
The champion was switching stances in round two looking to cause her Belgian opponent additional problems. Hermans, who took Shields the distance four years ago and was a former world champion herself, was a moving target knowing that her more powerful foe could end matters in a split second.
Hermans snuck in a right hand in round two that reminded everyone that this was not a foregone conclusion. It may have been a wake-up call because Marshall began to close the distance and took more chances.
Marshall was happy to wait for her moment no matter how long it was going to take. Hermans was having to exchange, her movement was being pinned to the ropes and corners. Marshall continued to double up the jab in the third and in the first minute she began to open up with her punches.
Hermans stood her ground and gave back what she could.
The champion was suffocating her and chipping away. With just seconds remaining a hefty jab had Hermans on the ropes. Marshall followed it up with a straight hand refusing to let her target go and with the bell about to go both women threw shots, but the left hook smashed on to Hermans and that was that.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Marshall told Sky Sports.
“It’s unbelievable. I feel like I’m floating.
“Femke’s a brilliant fighter. She’s very awkward. [I] knew if I caught her, I would hurt her, but I didn’t think she would go out like that.
Then the conversation turned to an undisputed showdown against Shields.
“There is no-one else in the way between me and Claressa. It’s me and Claressa in the summer. I knock Claressa out. Claressa can’t handle my power. I believe I severely hurt Claressa.” Shields, however, wasn’t bowled over by her rival’s performance.
“I’m not Femke Hermans. I’m not Hannah Rankin. As much punch power as she has, I’m sorry to tell you if that’s what I’ve got to look forward to it’s gonna be a wipeout. I went the distance with Femke four years ago. She’s definitely not gonna knock me out.”
Promoter Ben Shalom had earmarked a super-fight between Marshall and Shields as soon as Boxxer and Sky were able to secure a broadcast deal with the WBO champion.
“It’s very, very close,” he said. “A matter of days. We want it to happen here in Newcastle. This is where it should happen. This is where it deserves to happen. It’s going to be a classic and a milestone for women’s boxing in general. We’re looking at late June, early July.”
As the fans began to filter out Marshall and Shields faced off in the ring with words bending and berating the ears of one another. This summer they will have the chance to settle their long-running rivalry in the ring.
No more talking.