Determined Savannah Marshall not distracted by talk of Claressa Shields 'megafight' as she prepares to defend world title against Lolita Muzeya
Savannah Marshall insists her focus is fully on defending her world title against Lolita Muzeya – and not getting distracted by talk of a megafight against Claressa Shields.
The Hartlepool-born boxer fights in Newcastle on Saturday night and will feature on Sky Sports Main Event and Arena from 7.30pm alongside Hughie Fury and Chris Eubank Jr.
The 30-year-old is set to make the second defence of her WBO world middleweight title against Lolita Muzeya with huge fights on the horizon for the winner.
Following a solid amateur career, Marshall won her first world title as a professional against Hannah Rankin at Wembley Arena on October 31 last year.
She then defended the belt successfully for the first time seven months later against Maria Lindberg at the Copper Box Arena.
Both of those bouts, though, came during the Covid-19 pandemic with no fans present... a fact Marshall is all too aware of.
“I became world champion in lockdown and then I had my first defence in lockdown part three,” Marshall said to Sky Sports Boxing during her pre-fight press conference.
“So yeah, I’ve never been able to show my family and friends what I can do live and enjoy the experience with me.”
But what does Marshall make of the credentials of her opponent on Saturday? Muzeya, an undefeated Zambian, hasn’t fought outside of Africa before and is a relative unknown in British boxing circles.
“I’m expecting a tough fight from Lolita,” Marshall explained. “I’d be a fool to overlook anyone. She’s unbeaten and she doesn’t know what it is like to lose.
“I’m expecting her to come and I’m expecting the best version of Lolita.”
The fight on everyone’s lips, however, remains the possibility of Marshall facing American middleweight rival Claressa Shields in a potential megafight.
Shields currently holds the WBA, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine belts in Marshall’s weight class, meaning a fight between the pair would crown an undisputed champion in the middleweight division.
But does that mean Marshall is overlooking her opponent on Saturday with such a big fight on the horizon?
“That doesn’t really come into play. Lolita is in front of me and Lolita will be there on Saturday night. I can’t overlook Lolita. Not at all.”
Marshall trains with renowned boxing coach Peter Fury - the uncle of WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and the man who masterminded his nephew’s stunning win over Wladimir Klitschko in Germany six years ago.
But how has camp been ahead of Saturday’s world title defence?
“It has been a tough camp, a long and hard camp, I wouldn’t expect anything different really. So I am well prepared for anything Lolita brings and I am confident, I’m confident in my skills.
“I know I can punch, I know I can box on the back foot and come forward, so I’m excited for Saturday.”
But as ever where Marshall is concerned these days, the conversation always seems to drift back to Shields.
The outspoken 26-year-old is widely regarded as the greatest female boxer ever, having won two Olympic golds at London 2012 and Rio 2016 as an amateur – and then becoming a three-weight world champion as a professional.
The Michigan-born puncher, however, has been beaten just once in her entire ten-year career – against Marshall when the pair were both still in the amateur ranks.
With that, then, does Marshall believe she holds the keys to victory in that particular bout should they meet in the near future?
“100%. What can I say? I have always been confident in what I can do. I know I would beat Claressa. I know I would beat Lolita.
“But saying it and doing it is two completely different things.
“So like I said, Lolita is in my way so I will get shot of her and then crack on with Claressa.”
Marshall’s promoter, Ben Shalom, delivered an exciting update on the possibility of his fighter meeting Shields.
“I think as Savannah said, she has to focus on Lolita as she is a top fighter but we will be looking to unify in December.
“We have signed Claressa to a two-fight deal so we know it is going to happen.
“We know both fighters want it but we believe that Savannah is the best fighter in the world and we really believe in that.
“With Peter behind her as well there is nothing that can stop her but as I say, she has to focus on this one.
“Lolita. I’ve spoken to her team and they are not messing around. She has knockout power as well so it is going to be both fighters looking for it.”
Adam Smith, head of boxing for Sky Sports, added: “It is set up perfectly. Savannah Marshall has been part of our Sky family for a decade now.
“You talk about Claressa Shields but she did beat Claressa Shields but that fight is a dream fight.
“But it is a dream at the moment because this lady to my left, Lolita, is unbeaten and ready to take her opportunity.
“And this is what this stage is all about - this platform, the big shows are about that. Giving the fighters the chance to cause sensations and upsets and go home with the world titles
“But Savannah - we have been very close, I have mentored her for four years at Sky when she was our scholar - what she has done throughout her career, the ups and downs.
“The fact that now she has the world title now and that amazing relationship with Peter, I think now she has the confidence to go out there and perform and she’s going to take some stopping.”