Claressa Shields is not too enamored with the idea of unifying her middleweight titles in her opponent’s backyard.
Shields, the WBC, WBA, and IBF women’s middleweight champion, is on a collision course to face WBO middleweight titlist Savannah Marshall in a full unification bout this summer on Sky Sports, which has both fighters under exclusive contract through its association with promoter Boxxer.
While it has been the general understanding that Shields would have to face Marshall in England, particularly in Marshall’s hometown of Newcastle, the Flint, Michigan, native recently declaimed against the notion of fighting Marshall on her home court, citing her rabid fans.
Shields made her comments, in fact, at Newcastle Arena in Newcastle last Saturday, shortly after Marshall cold-cocked Femke Hermans inside three rounds before an electrified, partisan crowd. Shields suggested a bigger venue for her impending fight with Marshalls, such as The O2 Arena or Wembley Stadium, in London, where she believes she can get a fairer shake on the scorecards.
“I’ve already decided to come back to the UK to fight her, but to fight her in her hometown is giving up a big advantage for me,” Shields told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “We need to fight somewhere in the UK, like the O2, like Wembley, because this fight is huge. That’s where we need to fight at.”
Shields, a three-division titlist and two-time Olympic gold medalist, believes Marshall’s fans in Newcastle could potentially sway the opinion of the judges.
“[I want the fight] where we can have some neutral fans because the fans can’t persuade the judges, and we’re here in her hometown,” Shields said. “So, therefore, if they want me to fight in the UK, have it somewhere like the O2 or the Wembley. That’s fair to me. I’m already giving up my country, and I’m the one with the Olympic gold medals and I’m the one with the world title in three divisions. That makes sense.”
Boxxer head Ben Shalom, however, insisted in a separate interview that Shields (12-0, 2 KOs) had already agreed to have the fight with Marshall (12-0, 10 KOs) in Newcastle. Shalom said he is pushing to stage the fight in early July.
“Listen, we agreed this week that it’s going to be in Newcastle, that it’s going to be early July in New Castle,” Shalom told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “That’s what we're still aiming for. That’s where we believe that fight needs to be. At the O2, within Wembley, it might be a more international event but it’s not going to sell the tickets that it will up here. I think this is where it should be.
“I think once Claressa gets home and takes stock of things she’ll know that the right place is in Newcastle,” Shalom added.
Shields vs. Marshall figures to be a sellable grudge match, especially on the heels of Marshall's latest knockout victory. The two have deep history, going back to the amateurs, when Marshall handed Shields her lone defeat in the unpaid ranks.