Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall: Experts who have shared the ring with both break down the undisputed championship fight

Hannah Rankin and Sandy Ryan have shared a ring with both Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall; they break down the hugely-anticipated undisputed championship fight on Saturday.

They are unquestionably the two best boxers in their division but different in style from one another.

Marshall, who has a knockout ratio of over 80 percent, comes in with the reputation as the puncher of the two.

Shields may only have two stoppage wins on her record but is unbeaten in 12 pro bouts and has amassed a much greater number of accolades. While Marshall has won the WBO championship at 160lbs, Shields has picked up multiple world titles and been undisputed at super-welter and middleweight previously as well.

Hannah Rankin, a former world champion, has boxed both Shields and Marshall and is perfectly placed to compare the two.

A key factor in Marshall’s advance has not been her power-punching, she says, it has been her self-belief.

“When it comes to Savannah I think she has massively increased in confidence throughout all of her fights. A big part of that is down to Peter Fury, who’s a fantastic coach and I think he’s really instilled a lot of confidence in her and she’s grown as a fighter from that,” Rankin said.

“I think mentally she’s now in a good place to take on Claressa. Claressa is full on.

“I think her confidence has definitely improved. She’s a strong fighter and she’s very big for the weight.

“Really, really, tall, long levered,” Rankin continued. “She’s going to want to use her advantages, try and get Claressa on the end of those big heavy punches.”

Shields, though, is not only fast, it is how she uses that speed that sets her apart.

“She’s got fantastic ring IQ, her ring generalship is very impressive. Also her experience as a multi-weight world champion over three weight classes, you can’t buy that,” Rankin explained.

“Besides her speed in the ring there’s her judgement of distance and timing. She has quite impeccable distance and timing and she covers quite a lot of ground very quickly. People often say she’s quite flat footed but she isn’t really.”

Rankin is expecting Shields to deny Marshall the time she needs and keep the pressure on her.

Sandy Ryan has sparred both. For all Shields’ achievements, Ryan thinks the American’s formidable boxing ability is not fully appreciated. “Claressa is quite outspoken in herself so people are judging her from that and they’re not actually looking at her boxing IQ. She’s got a very good boxing IQ, one of the best in the female game. So you can’t take that away from her at all,” Ryan said.

Agreeing with Rankin, Ryan said: “She’s very smart and she’s fast and she’s very clever as well and she puts her punches together very well. It was very good sparring with her. When I sparred her I enjoyed it a lot.”

Shields was a two-time Olympic champion as an amateur. Marshall was a top-class amateur herself. Although she never won an Olympic medal, after handing Shields that famous loss in 2012 Marshall became the first Englishwoman to win gold at the World Amateur Championships.

But Ryan points out how Marshall has adapted expertly to professional boxing. “She’s changed her style a lot. I think it definitely works better for her. She’s a different fighter,” Ryan said.

“Just her style and the way she’s changed. Even her hand positioning. She’s slowed her pace down obviously for the pro style but more sting in her shots. It was a change of style for me that I noticed.

“That must be showing in her performances.”

Nor will their fight on Saturday be a simple case of speed versus power. “They’re two completely different fighters. What’s worked for Savannah has worked for Savannah so far. What’s worked for Claressa has worked for her so far,” Ryan said.

“Claressa can keep that work-rate up for the whole 10 rounds. I feel like they’re both completely different fighters.

“You can’t really say Claressa’s got no power,” she added. “Speed will beat power as well, if you’re catching clean with speed there’s going to be power behind that.”

As Rankin points out, Marshall will want to keep Shields on the end of her long-range punching. Ryan says what happens up close on the inside will be key to this fight.

“That’s what we’re going to have to find out on fight night. That’s going to be the question,” she said.

“I don’t know how Savannah is going to fight but I feel like she’s going to try and keep it long but Claressa’s very smart and she’ll find a way to get in.

“She’s fought bigger girls as well, in the amateurs, she knows how to get her way in. So it’s going to be a very interesting fight.

“Claressa will throw a flurry of punches up close and then she’s also smart. She doesn’t just throw for the sake of it, she’s smart, she’ll work her way in. I’m looking forward to the fight.”

“160lbs is kind of like the female version of the heavyweights,” Rankin noted.

“One shot could change the entire fight.”