Inside Claressa Shield’s only loss to Marshall – ‘steroid meat’ to ‘hostility’

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Claressa Shields’ strongest protestations have done little to convince people her one and only career loss, dealt by Savannah Marshall, does not get on her nerves.

Marshall is the quieter of the two rivals, but her 2012 victory over the American appears to ring very loudly in Shields’ head. After-all, the Hartlepool-born fighter remains the only person to beat Shields, amateur or professional. Now they share an identical 12-0 pro record heading into their historic undisputed middleweight clash at the 02 Arena.

The seeds of this legendary rivalry were planted in Qinhuangdao, a small port city on the coast of China, when Marshall overcame her fierce rival on points in the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships – barely two months before the London 2012 Olympics. Ten years after their huge bout, Daily Star Sport delves deep inside their first ever meeting in the ring.

Read More: Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields separated by security in furious insult exchange

They may not have been the imperious names they are today, but Marshall and Shields were being heralded as two of the hottest prospects in women’s boxing. Yet, they barely knew of each other’s existence, let alone their capabilities in the ring.

“Nobody had footage of her,” Shields said in an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport. “I had only seen her once before.” Video footage is at the forefront of all preparations in modern sport. Analysts investigate ever possible facet of an opponent’s performance from their combinations, their movement, their defence to their concentration.

However, Shields claims the environment around Team USA’s camp was “hostile” and that she was not “prepared, mentally or physically” for taking on Marshall. “When I think about when we were in China, I just remember there was so much hostility on our American team.

“I had beaten everybody to be No.1 at about 165lbs in America, but there were little whispers of ‘oh if she don’t qualify, then the girl that got second place can probably make it to the Olympics or she could take her spot’ there was so much hostility. I think people forget that in 2012 there were three weight classes for the women, 112, 132, and 165, so a lot of girls who were 140 and 150 fought at 165. The girls at 168 and 170 still fought at 165.

“There was not a world championship at each weight class, but the girls at smaller weight classes and middle weight classes were wishing bad on the ones who were No.1, because they thought they had a chance to make it to the Olympics. I just remember being in China and not having my first boxing coach and just always feeling attacked.”

Shields was referring to Jason Crutchfield, a volunteer boxing coach who first realised Shields’ talent when she was 11-years-old. As well as providing her early boxing education, Crutchfield also stepped in to help Shields when her dad was in prison and her mum was unable to provide for her.

As well as missing her coach, who was not able to fly out to China for the world championships, a paranoia and fear of food contamination rang through the Team USA Camp. “There was a rumour saying we can’t eat the meat over there because it had steroids in it and we could test positive and stuff. So I didn’t eat any meat when I was in China and I was over there for three weeks.

“I ate boiled eggs, broccolini, rice, and soy sauce every day. It was just so much and then when you’re training and you are number one, you’ll be at the bag doing your rounds and it seems like everybody is trying to compete. It was just that competition of girls who didn’t make No.1, who I had defeated previously, wanting to steal the showcase. They wanted to show the coaches around that they should have been the ones, that they were better, they were more experienced, they were older. I think people also forget that I was only 17 at the time and I feel like there were so many things that played in that fight.”

Shields may have been touted for great things, but she was still a novice in the boxing world. At least, in comparison to Marshall, who was 21-years-old at the time and already labelled the favourite to win the gold medal in London. “Nothing really. But if something did stick out in my mind, it would be when we got the draw, everybody was talking about ‘this new American girl who was unbeaten’,” Marshall also said in an exclusive interview with Daily Star Sport.

“At the time she had just featured on Times Magazine, but I had never seen this girl before. And then the draw came out and, lo and behold, it was ‘Savannah you will face the winner of India and the USA’. And I thought ‘oh great, I’ve got this big, up-and-coming fighter’. And that was that.” Marshall eventually picked up a strong points victory over the American, with the judges awarding the victory to the Brit 14-8 in her favour.

“She didn’t even knock me out, she didn’t even get an eight count, it was just one of those fights where I was very unprepared physically and mentally,” Shields added when asked about the loss. “I had never seen her fight before, I didn’t know her height, I don’t even think we had any plan, it was just ‘Claressa, go out and do what you always do’ and I ended up losing eight points to 14.

“The points system always scored 30 to 27 points every fight, so I was shocked to see eight points. But I did feel like in the fight I was landing shots and I think I was close to getting an eight count on her. When I watched the fight back, I always say to myself, when I watch the fight and watch it in a non-biased way ‘I won the fight’ but I can say that I saw my frustration, with being down on the scorecards and not getting any real instruction in the corner.”

When the Olympics eventually came around the corner, Shields went on to claim the gold medal, while Marshall would exit at the quarter-final stage of the competition. History repeated itself four years later in Rio de Janeiro with Marshall exiting, albeit controversially, at the quarter-finals again, and Shields standing on the podium with gold draped across her neck.

As the main event of the first ever all women’s boxing card, the stakes have never been higher for both Marshall and Shields. Ten years is how long it's taken for the two to cross paths once again.

Except, both fighters have the footage, they have their coaches and they will not be stalked by the terrors of steroid laden meat. "It was a lesson, who are we without learning things," Shields added. "I don’t consider it a loss. I won the Olympics three months after. She was there, she didn’t medal. Then I won the world championships – twice. She was there.

“I got a gold medal, I think she got a fourth placed bronze in one and didn’t medal in the other. Then she was at the 2016 Olympics, me gold medal, her no medal. And we fought against the same girls. All the girls that beat her in those four tournaments, I whooped them the next day.

“She just, she is not there, and that loss, it doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve redeemed that loss myself. Everybody else may be like ‘yea, but she beat you, bla bla bla’ but am I going to look at it and go ‘well I lost my 26th fight in the amateurs?’ Well, I left the amateurs with 77 wins, with that same loss. In the amateurs, I’m 50-0 after that fight.

“Then I am 12-0 in the pros with 12 world titles. Of course I don’t care about that loss. It doesn’t anger me when it is mentioned, not really. But that’s the story. There is no other story for her. ‘Oh, she beat me ten years ago, and now she’s a knockout artist because she signed with Peter Fury.’ Other than that, there’s no other story."

Shields vs Marshall, for the undisputed world title, headlines BOXXER: ’Legacy’ – a historic all-female night of boxing – on Saturday, September 10th at The O2 in London. For tickets visit Boxxer.com

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